A Kenyan national and former Massachusetts resident on Monday pleaded guilty to being part of a group that stole more than Sh430 million ($4 million) in romance and Covid-19 assistance scams.
Florence Mwende Musau, 36, pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.
Musau and five other people used fake passports and numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to collect and launder the proceeds of the romance scams.
Court documents show that Musau participated in a series of scams designed to defraud victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by her and others.
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.
“To carry out the schemes, Musau used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston,” the documents say.
“She then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, often multiple times on a single day and generally structured in amounts less than Sh1,078,000 ($10,000), in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.”
The accounts were also used to collect fraudulent pandemic unemployment benefits in the names of Massachusetts beneficiaries who did not apply for such funds, federal prosecutors said.
More than Sh430 million ($4 million) in fraud proceeds was deposited into accounts allegedly controlled by the defendants.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of up to Sh107 million ($1 million) or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, restitution and forfeiture.
Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
Ms Musau’s sentencing is scheduled for October 14.