Four charged with conspiring to launder money obtained from romance scams
NEW JERSEY – Four individuals were charged with conspiring to launder money taken from victims across the United States, many of whom were elderly, as a part of a series of romance scams, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
William Kwabena Goeh, 47, of Somerset, New Jersey; Nana Yaw Marfo, 37, of Virginia; and Shannon Braxton, 45, and Chevon Braxton, 42, both of Maryland, are each charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy, Sellinger said.
Goeh was arrested Wednesday morning in New Jersey and had his initial appearance by videoconference before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bond, Sellinger said.
Marfo was arrested Wednesday morning in Virginia and was scheduled to have his initial appearance Wednesday before the U.S. Magistrate Judge Ivan Davis in the Eastern District of Virginia, Sellinger said.
The Braxtons were both arrested Wednesday morning in Maryland and were scheduled to have their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gina L. Simms in the District of Maryland. Marfo and the Braxtons are scheduled to have their initial appearances in the District of New Jersey, Sellinger said.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the four used bank accounts and accounts at credit unions to launder the proceeds of money obtained by victims of romance scams. Several victims throughout the United States fell victim to romance scams after meeting individuals online who they thought were interested in a romantic relationship. The victims, many of whom were elderly, sent thousands of dollars to accounts controlled by Goeh, Marfo, the Braxtons, and others, believing the money was being sent for the benefit of their online romantic interest. Goeh and Marfo opened up business bank accounts in the names of various entities to conceal the romance scam fraud proceeds.
Goeh received at least $530,000; Marfo received at least $4.7 million; Shannon Braxton received at least $500,000; and Chevon Braxton received at least $1.3 million. The Braxtons withdrew a large portion of the fraud proceeds as cash, while Goeh and Marfo wired thousands of dollars overseas, including to accounts in China, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, Singapore, and Mauritius.
The money laundering conspiracy charge has a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the transfer, whichever is greater, Sellinger said.