COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Columbus man pleaded guilty in federal court today to a range of federal crimes, including fraud conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, money laundering, false claims to United States citizenship and firearms violations.
Nana Yaw Addo, 56, a citizen of Ghana, admitted his guilt to 10 separate counts today. He admitted to stealing an individual’s identity in order to create a fraudulent business and accompanying bank account, laundering the proceeds of “man in the middle” email scams, organizing the theft of lines of credit at furniture stores, printing and encoding fake credit cards, and illegally purchasing and possessing a firearm, according to a press release from the Southern District of Ohio Acting Attorney.
In total, the intended loss from Addo’s fraud was between half a million and $1.5 million, the press release said.
According to Addo’s plea agreement, in 2018, he stole an individual’s identity and used the stolen identity to create a business called Focal Point Wireless. Addo fraudulently registered the company with an address on Cleveland Avenue in Columbus. The address matched that of Addo’s actual company, Beeps Computer Clinic.
Addo then laundered the proceeds of business email compromise scams through his American bank accounts, according to the attorney’s media release.
For example, a co-conspirator compromised the email address of a supervisor at a separate victim company in order to initiate a wire transfer of more than $67,000 to an account Addo opened using the stolen identity.
An employee of the victim company received an email into his/her workplace email account purportedly from his/her supervisor telling the employee to initiate the wire transfer and that the supervisor would later provide an invoice. When the employee asked the supervisor about when to expect to receive the invoice, the victim company discovered the supervisor’s email had been compromised, the media release said.
Bank records show Addo wired at least $20,000 of the victim company’s money into a Beeps Computer Clinic bank account and purchased $2,000 in money orders at Kroger.
Addo received and laundered the proceeds of a scam defrauding a second victim company of $80,499 in October 2018, the media release from the Southern District of Ohio’s attorney said.
The next month, Addo laundered nearly $422,000 obtained by fraudsters through a “man in the middle” email scheme. In this type of scheme, the attacker impersonates a vendor or customer by mimicking email address domain names which appear to the same, but are, in reality, slightly different.
Addo admitted in his plea agreement that he served as a leader of credit card scams at furniture retailers. The defendant would send other people into retailers with victims’ stolen personal information in order to open lines of credit and order furniture. The furniture was then delivered to Addo’s business address on Cleveland Avenue. The stolen information was also used to print and encode fraudulent credit cards.
While searching his residence and business, law enforcement officials discovered more than 600 stolen credit card numbers, the media release said.
Addo falsely claimed to be a United States citizen to get a driver’s license and lied on federal forms to purchase a firearm.
As part of his plea, Addo will pay nearly $214,000 in restitution.
Addo faces up to 20 years in prison for money laundering, up to 10 years in prison for each firearm crime, up to five years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud, up to three years in prison for falsely claiming to be a United States citizen and a mandatory term of two years in prison – to be served consecutively to any other imposed sentence – for aggravated identity theft.
Congress sets the minimum and maximum statutory sentences. Sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the Court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Vipal J. Patel, Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Yvonne DiCristoforo, Special Agent in Charge, United States Secret Service; Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation; and Vance Callender, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), announced the plea entered into today before Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley. Assistant United States Attorneys Kelly A. Norris and Peter K. Glenn-Applegate are representing the United States in this case, the media release concluded.