Two persons accused of cybercrime have been extradited from Ghana to the United States to face charges for their roles in separate multi-million dollar scams.
The two are 33-year-old Deborah Mensah who is facing charges over a US$10 million fraud and 27-year old Maxwell Peter also facing criminal investigations being handled by the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI), and Internal Revenue Service.
Deborah Mensah, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service, is wanted for a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams targeting the elderly.
The Department of Justice said that she is the eighth defendant charged in the case and was extradited from Ghana to the US on August 21.
She was earlier arrested on January 16, in Accra for charges in connection with a fraud conspiracy in Ghana involving the theft of over US$10 million through business email compromises and romance scams that targeted the elderly from 2014 to 2018.
Deborah 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 also 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.”
The second person extradited, Maxwell Peter resided in Tamale, Ghana before his extradition and is standing trial for wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The indictment indicates that Maxwell and his various African-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016.
Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa.
Maxwell is specifically alleged to have directed the transfer of funds from a June 2016 BEC to a co-conspirator in Africa.
In addition to BEC, Maxwell is also charged with perpetrating romance scams, fraudulent check scams, gold-buying scams, advance fee scams and credit card scams.
The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Africa through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams.
Maxwell allegedly created and used the alias “Sandra Lin” in furtherance of these crimes. From May through June of 2017, Peter Maxwell is alleged to have communicated with an FBI agent acting in an undercover capacity to receive the proceeds of fraud.
Along with his co-conspirators over the life of the conspiracy, Maxwell is believed to have caused millions of dollars in losses to victims across the globe.
Seven other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in these schemes.
Benard E. Okorhi, 41, was extradited in March 2020 from Canada, and is detained pending trial. Two others, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 30, were convicted in March after a seven-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee.
Abegunde received a 78-month sentence and Ramos-Alonso received a 31-month sentence for their roles in the scheme. Several individuals remain at large.