A 33-year-old Ghanaian lady has been extradited to the U.S. to face fraud-related charges.
Deborah Mensah is wanted by the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation for a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams targeting the elderly.
According to the Justice Department, Ms Mensah who is the eighth defendant charged in the case was extradited from Ghana to the United States on August 21, 2020.
She was arrested on January 16, 2020, in Accra for charges in connection with a fraud conspiracy based in Ghana involving the theft of over $10 million through business email compromises and romance scams that targeted the elderly from at least in or about 2014 through in or about 2018.
Ms Mensah was presented in the Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman on August 26. Her case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said, “Deborah Mensah is alleged to have been a participant in a conspiracy that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from businesses and vulnerable individuals across the United States, and the laundering of that money through a network of bank accounts in the Bronx to co-conspirators in Ghana. Now she is in the United States and facing charges under U.S. law.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “Ms. Mensah may have believed hiding in Ghana protected her from facing justice for her alleged role in this scheme.
“She now knows the FBI’s reach is global through our formidable network of law enforcement partners. Others should take heed – we won’t go away simply because it may take time to go get you. If you break our laws, you will pay the price.”
IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen said, “As alleged in the criminal complaint, Ms Mensah’s desire for money drove her to prey upon the vulnerable in our society. Thanks to the financial expertise of IRS-CI special agents working side-by-side with our law enforcement partners, the long arm of the law caught up to Ms Mensah in Ghana, and she will now face the consequences of her alleged actions.”
Below is the timeline of happenings
From at least in or about 2014 through in or about 2018, Ms Mensah was a member of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Ghana that committed a series of business email compromises and romance scams against individuals and businesses located across the United States, including in the Southern District of New York.
The objective of the Enterprise’s business email compromise fraud scheme was to trick and deceive businesses into wiring funds into accounts controlled by the Enterprise. First, members of the Enterprise created email accounts with slight variations of email accounts used by employees of a victim company or third parties engaged in business with a company to “spoof” or impersonate those employees or third parties.
These fake email accounts were specifically designed to trick other employees of the company with access to the company’s finances into thinking the fake email accounts were authentic. The fake email accounts were used to send instructions to wire money to certain bank accounts and also included fake authorization letters for the wire transfers that contained forged signatures of company employees.
By using this method of deception, the Enterprise sought to trick the victims into transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank accounts the victims believed were under the control of legitimate recipients of the funds as part of normal business operations, when in fact the bank accounts were under the control of members of the Enterprise, including MENSAH.
The Enterprise conducted the romance scams by using electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, or online dating websites that deluded the victims, many of whom were vulnerable older men and women who lived alone, into believing the victim was in a romantic relationship with a fake identity assumed by members of the Enterprise.
Once members of the Enterprise had gained the trust of the victims using the fake identity, they used false pretenses, such as a shipment of gold or receiving a portion of an investment, to cause the victims to wire money to bank accounts the victims believed were controlled by their romantic interests, when in fact the bank accounts were controlled by members of the Enterprise.
At times, the members of the Enterprise also used false pretenses to cause the victims to receive funds into the victims’ bank accounts, which, unbeknownst to the victims, were fraud proceeds, and to transfer those funds to accounts under the control of members of the Enterprise. The members of the Enterprise, posing as the romantic interest of the victims, also introduced the victims to other individuals purporting to be, for example, consultants or lawyers, who then used false pretenses to cause the victims to wire money to bank accounts controlled by members of the Enterprise.