A 36-year-old Kenyan woman is staring at a possible 30-year jail term in the United States of America for love fraud.
Florence Mwende Musau on Monday, June 21 pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy involving romance scams targeting individuals in the US, the Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts said.
Mwende, a resident of Canton City in northeast Ohio, will consequently be sentenced on October 14, 2021.
The tricenarian admitted to committing the wire and bank fraud before the US District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs.
The court heard that Mwende and five others were, in March 2021, arrested in connection with their roles in online scams that are alleged to have collectively defrauded victims of more than $4 million (Sh431 million).
The suspects were subsequently charged on March 25, 2021.
According to the Prosecution, Mwende participated in a series of romance 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 US Attorney’s Office says.
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, Mwende 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 (Sh1.1 million), in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.
When a suspect is found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud in the US, he or she risks spending up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million (Sh107.8 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 the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
“The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” said the Attorney’s Office.
Mwende and her co-accused reportedly engaged in five romance scams between 2018 and early 2021.