Canton Woman Sentenced for Online Fraud Conspiracy
BOSTON – A Canton woman was sentenced today for her role in a fraud conspiracy involving romance scams and pandemic unemployment fraud.
Florence Mwende Musau, 38, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Allison D. Burroughs to 44 months in prison and 30 months of supervised release. Musau was also ordered to pay approximately $957,000 in restitution and to forfeit approximately $350,000 and a Lexus SUV. In 2021, Musau was charged with, and pleaded guilty to, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
Musau participated in a conspiracy involving romance scams and other online frauds designed to deceive victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by her and others. Criminals perpetrating romance scams create fictitious profiles on online dating or social media websites, gain the trust of potential victims and then direct those victims to transfer money under false pretenses.
To further the conspiracy, Musau used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to receive the proceeds of the romance scams. Musau then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, generally structured in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements. Musau also received the proceeds of fraudulent state pandemic unemployment assistance benefits in the names of victims. As part of the scheme, Musau used at least three different aliases to open nearly ten fraudulent bank accounts and receive approximately $1 million in fraud proceeds.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England made the announcement today. Special assistance was provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian J. Stearns of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.