The playbook read like a script on “How to perform a romance scheme. “
There were fictitious names, calls for help, conversations, and possibly requests for money.
Federal officials claim Massachusetts man used fake names on dating sites to trick women into sending him money in what authorities described as a romantic ploy that saw at least three women him send over half a million dollars.
Randolph’s Kofi Osei was arrested Thursday and charged in federal court in Boston with multiple counts of money laundering, bank misrepresentation and wire fraud.
“Over the course of the program, more than $ 1.7 million was transferred to accounts controlled by Osei,” federal prosecutors said in court records.
Osei-led romance projects began in 2016 and continued into 2019, authorities said. He used fake names on dating sites eHarmony and Plenty of Fish and fake IDs to open bank accounts, according to records.
A woman, a resident of Jacksonville, Florida, said she was contacted by a man she knew as “William Karlsen” via eHarmony in December 2016.
The man was actually Osei, authorities said.
The man and woman chatted on the phone, text, and email. Then the man started telling him that he was working on an offshore oil rig. The demands for money have started.
Osei, posing as the man, had arranged to meet the woman in Florida, but canceled the meeting after saying: “He was unable to travel because he was involved in an explosion on the platform. petroleum form and had been arrested by authorities in Dubai, ”Federal Records said.
Osei then asked the woman to send money to pay her lawyer so that he could be released.
In February 2017, the woman sent $ 36,000 by wire transfer to a bank account controlled by Osei.
Within a week, almost all of the money was gone, authorities said.
Then, on Valentine’s Day 2017, the same woman sent two wire transfers totaling $ 125,000 to one of the accounts controlled by Osei. About $ 120,000 was gone in three days.
The first alleged victim was entrusted with $ 201,000 by Osei, according to federal records.
The second woman, from Montecito, Calif., Was contacted in December 2017 by a man she knew as “William Woodcox” on the dating site Plenty of Fish. The man was actually Osei, authorities said.
The two spoke via email and phone.
In this ruse, Osei claimed that he was working in France when “there was an accident at his workplace”. Osei, under the alias, asked the woman to help injured people by sending money. He then later told the woman that he had been arrested and needed the money to get out of prison.
The second woman, between January 2018 and February 2018, sent $ 65,000 to bank accounts controlled by Osei, according to records.
A third woman from Bradenton, Florida met a man who called himself “Harry Mikesell” on Plenty of Fish in July 2018. Once again, Osei followed his playbook of talking to the woman via email and by text message, federal prosecutors said.
This time, Osei claimed he was a man working on an oil rig in Houston, Texas. Osei wanted the woman to send money for drilling equipment and convinced the woman to become his “power of attorney” on her company’s bank account in the Bahamas, according to records.
The woman agreed, but Osei, using her bogus profile, told the woman that her account had been frozen. He asked the woman to pay to unblock the account. The third woman sent about $ 270,565 to accounts controlled by Osei, according to an affidavit filed in court.
The FBI said earlier this month that Massachusetts residents lost more than $ 8 million in romance scams last year.
“Scammers use online dating apps and sites to build trusting relationships with victims and persuade them to send money or share personal and financial information,” the Boston FBI said on Twitter. “Never send money to someone you’ve only met online.”
In the United States, victims lost approximately $ 605 million due to romance scams in 2020. In New England, victims lost approximately $ 11.7 million, with Massachusetts residents losing the most. There were 361 casualties in the Commonwealth.
If anyone thinks they are part of a scam, immediately stop all contact, the FBI said. If they have already sent money, report any transfer of funds to your financial institution and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.