Prosecutors have announced that Kofi Osei, a 30-year-old man from Massachusetts, has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for his involvement in online romance scams that defrauded hundreds of people of millions of dollars.
Osei and his accomplices targeted mostly elderly individuals seeking companionship by setting up fake online dating profiles. They gradually gained the trust of their victims before directing them to transfer funds to dozens of bank accounts that Osei had opened using false passports, aliases, and phony business names. The money was then quickly withdrawn. The scheme amassed over $8 million in proceeds, with $4 million of it going into accounts opened and controlled by Osei.
Victims were often told elaborate stories of oil rig explosions and foreign jails in order to gain their trust. For instance, one victim from Florida sent over $200,000 to accounts controlled by Osei after being told that her online boyfriend needed the money to secure his release from custody following an explosion on his oil rig. Another victim from California sent $65,000 to an account controlled by Osei after being told that the money was required to support employees who were injured in an accident at her online boyfriend’s overseas worksite, and to secure his release from jail.
Osei was arrested in February 2021 and later pled guilty in September to making a false statement to a bank, wire fraud, and money laundering. In addition to his prison sentence, he has been ordered to pay over $4 million in restitution and forfeiture. The prosecution had sought a sentence of nine years.
According to Osei’s attorney, he grew up in poverty in Ghana and came to the U.S. legally to pursue a career in professional soccer. The defense sought leniency, citing Osei’s remorse, his role as a loving father, and his lack of prior criminal history, and arguing that he had made a “poor and misguided decision.”
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