COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A Westerville man admitted Thursday to laundering more than $4 million in profits he gained by deceiving those looking for love.
Edward Amankwah, 45, pleaded guilty to conspiring to launder nearly $4.3 million that he stole through a series of online romance scams across the U.S., according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker of the Southern District of Ohio. Combined with the proceeds generated by six of Amankwah’s co-conspirators, the defendants laundered nearly $12 million in total.
To carry out the scheme, Amankwah and the co-defendants — all of whom have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing — designed several profiles on online dating sites to attract people U.S. and elsewhere with “a sense of affection, and often, romance,” Parker said.
Once a relationship was established, the perpetrators requested money from the unsuspecting victims, which was then wired to bank accounts in the U.S., Ghana and China, according to Parker.
Five victims took the witness stand during Amankwah’s trial, which began on Monday, Parker said. One victim reportedly transferred $131,400 to someone claiming to be a military member that needed the funds to retire early. Another victim sent more than $500,000 to one of Amankwah’s accounts — an account they thought belonged to an Afghanistan servicemember.
One victim reportedly fell in love with someone on a dating site who claimed he owned a mine in Canada, transferring him $70,000 — which ended up in Amankwah’s hands, yet again — to help cover the mine’s operating expenses, Parker said.
As part of Amankwah’s guilty plea, he agreed to pay about $4.29 million in restitution. He could face up to 20 years in prison, according to Parker.
A federal jury found another Ohio man guilty of participating in similar romance scams in June. In that case, the man made off with over $1 million from victims on dating websites.