SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Defendants involved in a dating fraud scheme that victimized a woman in Taney County, Missouri, and an email hacking scheme targeting a program in Fort Leonard Wood have been charged in federal district court western Missouri as part of the Department of Justice’s fourth annual Money Mule initiative.
The Money Mule initiative targets the networks of individuals through which international fraudsters obtain the proceeds of fraudulent schemes. These individuals, sometimes referred to as money mules, receive money from victims of fraud and pass the illicit funds on, often to foreign perpetrators. By receiving and transferring illicit funds, money mules facilitate a wide range of fraud schemes, including those that often have a predominant impact on older Americans – like romance scams and lottery fraud – and those who target businesses through business email compromise systems.
“Foreign fraudsters rely on American accomplices to facilitate their schemes,” said acting US prosecutor Teresa Moore. âThese so-called money mules pocket a share of every dollar stolen and profit from the victimization of others. Whether the criminal conspiracy involves a romance fraud scheme, an email hacking scheme, or other illegal fraud, we will strive to protect our community from these predators and hold them accountable. “
In the Western Missouri District, the initiative targeted an online romance program that stole more than $ 300,000 from several victims, including a Taney County resident. The initiative also included indicting a Florida man for a professional email compromise system who stole $ 164,568 from a program at Fort Leonard Wood that provides transportation for military service members to be with their families during the holidays.
The Justice Department announced on Friday that nationwide federal law enforcement has taken steps to deal with 4,750 mules of cash in the past 10 weeks; enforcement actions have taken place in all states of the country. These actions more than doubled the number of actions taken during last year’s effort. Agencies are also carrying out outreach activities to educate the public on how fraudsters use money mules and how to avoid unknowingly helping fraud by receiving and transferring money.
The thousands of actions taken by law enforcement ranged from warning letters to civil and administrative actions, including criminal prosecutions. Law enforcement officers sent approximately 4,670 letters warning individuals that their actions facilitated fraud schemes. These letters highlighted the potential consequences of transferring illegally acquired money. Civil or administrative lawsuits were brought against 11 people and, through seizures and voluntary return of funds, law enforcement obtained nearly $ 3.7 million in fraud proceeds.
In addition, more than 30 people have been criminally indicted for their role in receiving and transmitting payments to victims or in laundering the proceeds of fraud.
In the Western Missouri District, these criminal cases included:
United States vs. Huggins
Franklin D. Huggins, 53, of Homosassa, Fla., Was indicted in a two-count indictment rendered by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Nov. 16.
The federal indictment alleges that Huggins participated in a $ 223,427 wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy from January 1, 2017 to January 28, 2019. Huggins co-conspirators allegedly targeted Fort Leonard Wood and two companies through business email. compromise scheme. In a business email compromise scheme, the conspirators hack into a business email account and then send an email from what appears to be an employee of that company with authority to deal with financial matters, ordering the money to be sent to certain bank accounts.
According to the indictment, conspirators sent emails to people associated with businesses in an attempt to gain illegal access to business email accounts. After gaining access to these email accounts, the conspirators then used the business email accounts to present themselves as the businesses and individuals depicted. Under such supposed identities, the conspirators would then engage in what appeared to be normal financial transactions with other victimized businesses, individuals and entities, demanding money for certain purposes. These victimized companies, individuals and entities, believing that they were doing business with the real individuals and not with the conspirators, sent money to the conspirators on the basis of these false representations.
Once Huggins received the victims’ money into one of his accounts, he would withdraw the money, use the proceeds for his personal benefit, and transfer the money to other people or entities, for other purposes. than those represented for the victims.
According to the indictment, Huggins and his co-conspirators stole $ 164,568 from the Fort Leonard Wood branch of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Branch. The co-conspirators hacked email from an Illinois company that provided charter bus services, then sent emails allegedly from the company, which provides transportation for military service members during winter holidays, including round-trip bus transportation to airports for military service members. their families during the holidays.
Huggins and his co-conspirators also allegedly stole $ 9,000 from an individual in Tennessee, and allegedly stole $ 49,859 from an Idaho company.
The indictment also includes an allegation of forfeiture, which would require Huggins to confiscate from the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including a monetary judgment of $ 223,427.
United States vs. Obafemi
Badetito O. Obafemi, 39, of Dallas, Ga., Was indicted in a 14-count indictment rendered by a federal grand jury in Springfield on July 27.
The federal indictment alleges that Obafemi participated in a wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy from June 1, 2016 to March 2018. The indictment also charges Obafemi with 11 counts of money laundering money and a manager of an illegal money transmission business.
Obafemi was the owner of Easy Tickets, LLC and Goeasy Logistics, LLC, with offices for the two listed companies at his residence.
Romantic Scams target people, some of whom are elderly, looking for companionship or romance through online websites such as Facebook, Our Time, and Go Fish. The authors of the romance scams created multiple profiles on online dating and social media sites. The conspirators then contacted individuals across the United States, including at least one individual from Taney County, with whom they cultivated a sense of affection and romance.
After establishing relationships with the victims, the indictment says, the romance scammers demanded money for various bogus purposes, including equipment, business project expenses, other business expenses, hospital and medical costs, construction costs, travel costs, taxes and loans. The conspirators ordered the victims to wire or deposit money into various accounts, including accounts established and managed by Obafemi. When he received the money, Obafemi allegedly withdrew some of the proceeds in cash, used some of the proceeds for his own benefit, and transferred some of the proceeds to other accounts in the United States and overseas.
According to the indictment, the Taney County victim was contacted via Facebook by an individual claiming to be “Kevin Condon” in May 2016. After several email, phone and Facebook conversations, “Condon” convinced the victim to send him money for the expenses. related to his business plan abroad and various medical problems. The conspirators stole a total of $ 27,460 from the Taney County victim. “Condon” also tried to convince the victim to deposit $ 40,000 into an account controlled by Obafemi, allegedly to pay a court in South Africa for his release from prison.
The indictment also specifically refers to a victim in Minnesota who sent $ 230,000 to Obafemi and his co-conspirators after meeting on an online dating site, and a victim in New Jersey who sent $ 54,000 to the conspirators after they met on an online dating site.
The indictment also contains an allegation of forfeiture, which would require Obafemi to confiscate from the government all property derived from the proceeds of the alleged offenses, including a monetary judgment of $ 311,460.
The charges contained in these indictments are merely charges and not evidence of guilt. Evidence to support charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty it is to determine guilt or innocence.
These cases are being continued by Assistant US Attorney Casey Clark. They were investigated by the Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigation Service, US Army Criminal Investigations Command, Citrus County, in Florida, the Sheriff’s Office, Belle Meade, Tennessee, Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, FBI, and the Northfield, Minnesota Police Department.
For more information on money mules, visit www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch/money-mule-initiative.
Information on the Department of Justice’s Aging Fraud Initiative is available at www.justice.gov/elderjustice. Additional information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its anti-fraud efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. If you or someone you know is 60 years of age or older and has been the victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Seniors Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).
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