Skip to main content
Press Release

U.S. Citizen Charged with Federal Offenses Related to Millions Stolen from Victims of Online Scams

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Connecticut

United States Attorney Vanessa Roberts Avery, Inspector in Charge Ketty Larco-Ward of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division, Acting Special Agent in Charge David Meisenheimer of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington D.C. Field Office, and Acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher Gust of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), today announced that RICHARD FASANELLA, 54, a U.S. citizen last residing in Venezuela, has been charged with conspiracy, fraud, and monetary offenses related to his alleged role in receiving, moving, and converting money stolen from victims of online scams.

As alleged in the indictment, Fasanella’s associates used various online scams, including romance scams, to defraud dozens of primarily elderly victims of millions of dollars.  Fasanella is a registered agent for multiple business entities that were registered in Connecticut and elsewhere in the U.S.  Fasanella applied for an Employer Identification Number (“EIN”), also known as a Federal Tax Identification Number, for these various businesses, and he and his associates used the EINs to open business bank accounts in the names of those businesses.  Fasanella and his associates then used these bank accounts to deposit cash, money orders, and checks that fraud victims mailed to specified addresses and recipients.  Victims also wired money directly from their bank accounts to the bank accounts controlled by Fasanella and his associates.  Fasanella and others retained a portion of the fraudulently obtained money and passed the rest of the money to others, primarily through cryptocurrency.

On July 25, 2023, a federal grand jury in New Haven returned a 19-count indictment charging Fasanella.  The indictment was unsealed after Fasanella was deported from Bogota, Colombia, on January 22, 2024.  On January 26, he appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge S. Dave Vatti Bridgeport and pleaded not guilty to the charges.  He is currently detained.

The indictment charges Fasanella with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years; four count of mail fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count; five counts of wire fraud, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years on each count; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and illegal monetary transactions, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years; five counts of money laundering, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment 20 years on each count; and three counts of illegal monetary transactions, an offense that carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years on each count.

U.S. Attorney Avery stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt.  Charges are only allegations, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The Justice Department and our law enforcement partners are committed to rooting out and prosecuting online scammers and their criminal associates who prey upon vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney Avery.  “I thank the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and TIGTA for unraveling this complex scheme and identifying this defendant, and the U.S. Marshals and Migración Colombia for their invaluable assistance in tracking him down and bringing him to justice in the U.S.”

“This investigation, which uncovered a large-scale, complex web of money laundering through the U.S. Mail, reflects the U.S. Postal Inspections Services’ commitment to dismantle schemes by criminals who seek to profit by exploiting victims through fraud,” said Inspector in Charge Ketty Larco-Ward, Boston Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. “This alleged scheme included the victimization of many elderly Americans as well as many international victims.  I commend our fellow law enforcement partners, domestic and international, for their assistance with this case.  The U.S. Postal Inspection Service will continue to be relentless in fighting crime that impacts the people we serve wherever, and however it occurs.”

“It is alleged that Mr. Fasanella orchestrated brazen schemes of staggering proportions,” said IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge David Meisenheimer.  “His arrest is another example of IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners commitment to investigate and prosecute those who take advantage of taxpayers for their personal financial gain.”

“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) aggressively investigates individuals who use the IRS’s programs and tax collecting authority to scam others, especially seniors and other vulnerable populations,” said Christopher Gust, acting Special Agent in Charge.  “The defendant in this case is alleged to have done just that by targeting and victimizing the most vulnerable in our society.  Our mission at TIGTA is to protect the integrity of our nation’s system of tax administration.  We are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to ensure those who endeavor to corrupt federal tax administration are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

This investigation is being conducted the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI, and TIGTA, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service and Migración Colombia.  The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the Narcotic and Dangerous Drug Section’s Judicial Attaché’s office at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota provided assistance.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Cherry.

The Justice Department has established a National Elder Fraud Hotline to provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.  The Hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers.  Case managers assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.  When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.  The Hotline’s toll-free number is 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).

To read more about the Justice Department’s efforts to combat elder fraud and abuse click here.

Updated January 29, 2024

Elder Justice
Financial Fraud