Two Army reservists have been accused of coordinating a fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams against elderly women, according to a federal complaint in the Southern District Court of New York.
Joseph I. Asan, Jr. and Charles I. Ogozy, both of whom enlisted in the Army Reserve in February 2018, were arrested Oct. 31 and released in January to await trial under house arrest with electronic monitoring, according to public court records.
An FBI agent said in the complaint that Asan and Ogozy defrauded victims and laundered their proceeds through bank accounts they had opened in the names of fake businesses. Over a year-long scam, the two men received or attempted to receive roughly $3 million in fraud proceeds, according to the complaint.
The publication Quartz noted that only Asan has been indicted and some of the court records indicate Ogozy might be cooperating with investigators.
Asan said he and Ogozy were Army “buddies” and former roommates, according a recorded telephone call cited in the complaint. Few details of their military service were released in the document, and while the romance scams they were allegedly engaged in targeted elderly women, the schemes did not appear to invoke their military service to help their cause.
The two men would gain unauthorized access to business email accounts or spoof emails and impersonate employees of a company in order to convince victims to transfer funds to bank accounts they controlled, the FBI agent said in the complaint.
During one scam in early 2019, an unnamed victim agreed to sell equipment to a chemical distributor in New Jersey for about $421,000. An email was sent in February 2019 telling the chemical distributor that payment for the sale should be deposited in a bank account owned by Uxbridge Capital, LLC, at a credit union for active-duty, retired and reserve U.S. service members.
After the bank was alerted that the wire transfer was fraudulent on March 1, 2019, the funds were recalled and the account was frozen. A few days later, Asan allegedly called the bank multiple times to ask why he couldn’t access the account and its funds.
Another business scheme involved an email compromise at a Marine Corps veterans organization. In August 2018, an individual posing as the executive of the organization sent emails to the group’s treasurer using the executive’s email to request a wire transfer of $6,850 to a bank headquartered in Manhattan and connected to the scammers. The transfer went through and the victims began cooperating with law enforcement.
Asan and Ogozy would also scam women into believing they were in a romantic relationship using fake identities and dating websites.
One victim identified in the complaint was a 67-year-old widow residing in North Carolina who started using a dating website for people aged 50 and older. She met a person on the website posing as a Canadian man with two children. They communicated through text messages, emails and even phone calls, but never met in person. Still the fraudulent user was able to give the woman photos of himself and even a copy of his purported U.S. passport.
Eventually, the phony profile asked the widow to help him out of a tough situation.
The man claimed he was in the Philippines working as an engineer on a bridge and that he was unable to access his U.S.-based bank accounts because someone had committed bank fraud using his account. He asked the woman to send him $75,000 and promised to pay her back with interest.
The widow ultimately transferred the funds, but was never paid back.
Another romance scam cited in the complaint involved a 57-year-old woman residing in Illinois. She met a man claiming to be from Newark, New Jersey, over a dating website and began a relationship with him through phone calls and electronic messaging. Again, the phony profile sent the woman pictures of himself and a copy of his purported driver’s license.
Once again, the woman was told a story about how the man needed emergency funds transferred to him. He claimed he was in Dubai working on an engineering project when a member of his team was hurt on the job. The scammer told the woman to transfer the money to an account in the name of Renegade Logistics, LLC in Florida. He claimed the account was that of a broker who could get the funds abroad faster.
The victim sent a cashier’s check in the amount of roughly $35,000 to the fraudulent broker in June 2019, and wire transferred more than $9,000 to the broker one month later. She was never repaid.
The wire transfers and cashier’s checks were ultimately routed to bank accounts belonging to Uxbridge and Renegade, FBI agents said in the complaint. Both companies were connected to Asan and Ogozy through their names, addresses and phone numbers.
From August 2018 to May 2019, the Uxbridge accounts had deposits greater than $500 that totaled approximately $1.36 million, and withdrawals greater than $500 that totaled approximately $1.34 million.
Between January and September 2019, the Renegade accounts had similar deposit amounts that totaled about $1.63 million, and withdrawal amounts that totaled $1.32 million.
A majority of the deposits in both the Uxbridge and Renegade accounts consisted of large wire transfers from various individuals and businesses or cash deposits. Many of the withdrawals consisted of transfers to other accounts under the control of Asan and Ogozy, according to the complaint.
Jeffrey Chabrowe, an attorney representing Ogozy, did not respond to a request for comment. No attorney was listed for Asan in public court records. Assistant U.S. attorney Sagar K. Ravi, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.
Asan and Ogozy men were ultimately released on $250,000 personal recognizance bonds for home detention with electronic monitoring.