ALBANY – An Albany man admitted this past week to a romance scam that bilked nearly $450,000 from two victims, U.S. Attorney’s officials said.
William Y. Asiedu, 27, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of wire fraud conspiracy in the scam, prosecutors said.
He admitted he agreed to receive proceeds from the scheme and then to forward proceeds on to co-conspirators in Ghana, prosecutors said. In exchange, he received a five to 10 percent cut.
The scam he admitted to extended from October 2018 to May 2019 and centered on two victims, one from Switzerland and the other from Arizona, prosecutors said.
Asiedu’s co-conspirators falsely led each victim to believe she was sending money for the benefit of a man she met through an online dating website, prosecutors said. Asiedu’s co-conspirators actually posed as the fake paramours and then fraudulently induced the victims to send money to Asiedu, prosecutors said.
The Arizona victim lost $338,000, while the Switzerland victim lost $105,000, records indicate.
The Switzerland victim believed she was sending money to a man who was romantically interested in her. The man, one of Asiedu’s co-conspirators, told the woman he worked for the United Nations, was to retire soon and wanted to move to Switzerland, according to Asiedu’s plea agreement.
Prior to his retirement, though, the co-conspirator told the woman he wanted to ship diamonds from Sudan to Dubai, but needed to borrow money to pay customs charges in Dubai, the plea agreement reads. She then sent the money in two wire transfers in February 2019.
The Arizona victim sent her money between October 2018 and March 2019. She believed she was also sending money to a man who was romantically interested in her, the plea agreement reads.
That man, also a co-conspirator of Asiedu’s, told her he worked on a rig off the Mexican coast and that he needed money to move gold into the United States, the plea agreement reads.
Both women then sent the money to accounts controlled by Asiedu. In one instance, the bank questioned Asiedu about a $63,000 wire transfer to an account he’d opened under the guise of a community youth organization. Asiedu responded that the money was legitimate and the result of a soccer tournament.
Asiedu is due to be sentenced in October. He faces up to 20 years in prison. He agreed not to appeal any sentence of three years, one month or less.