Lewis Center man pleads guilty to COVID relief theft, money laundering in online romance scam | #romancescams


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A Delaware County man — already facing charges for involvement in a multi-million-dollar online romance scam — admitted Monday to fraudulently receiving federal coronavirus relief funding while on home detention awaiting trial.



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Eric Ahiekpor, 50, of Lewis Center, pleaded guilty to criminal counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud in both cases and is facing up to 20 years in prison on each count.

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U.S. District Judge Sarah D. Morrison will determine a final sentence at a later date.

Ahiekpor was among several men indicted last year in a romance scam that bilked unsuspecting dating site users out of more than $6 million. Perpetrators established relationships with people online, gaining their trust, then asked for money to invest in gold or diamond mines or for financial or legal troubles, according to court documents.

As part of his plea Monday, Ahiekpor admitted funneling more than $2.4 million in proceeds from the romance scams into accounts he controlled, then withdrawing cash or transferring the funds in the United States and overseas, according to documents.

While on home detention and subject to electronic monitoring of his location following the earlier indictment, investigators determined Ahiekpor fraudulently received $150,000 in federal coronavirus relief loan funding on behalf of a business he owned called Premier Choice Health Services. He used more than $41,000 of the proceeds to purchase two boats, according to court documents.

In addition to potential prison time, Ahiekpor agreed, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, to repay at least $2.4 million.

mkovac@dispatch.com

@OhioCapitalBlog

This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Lewis Center man pleads guilty to COVID relief theft, money laundering in online romance scam

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