A Kenyan national has admitted her role in a fraud conspiracy involving romance scams targeting individuals in the United States.
Florence Mwende Musau aged 36 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud before U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs on Monday.
The woman, who previously resided in Canton, Ohio, will be sentenced on October 14, 2021.
Mwende was among five people charged on March 25 this year with defrauding individuals and the government out of more than $4 million (Ksh430 million) through broad online schemes, including romance scams.
Mwende and Mark Arome Okuo, 41, a Nigerian national, were charged in a complaint filed March 22, charging each of them with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.
Arome also resided in Canton.
Osakpam Omoruyi, 36, of Canton and Osaretin Omoruyi, 34, of Canton and Macpherson Osemwegie, 32, of Hyde Park, were charged in a separate case with one count, each, of bank and wire fraud conspiracy.
The charge sheet read that Mwende participated in a series of romance scams designed to defraud victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by her and others.
To carry out the schemes, the prosecution said, Musau used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to collect and launder the proceeds of the romance scams.
She then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, often multiple times on a single day and generally structured in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.
Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
Following her confession, Mwende faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss.
Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
A statement released by the Judiciary indicates that the remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.