Florida Man Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering
Defendant laundered proceeds of international Ponzi-style investment fraud scheme
BOSTON – A Florida man pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in Boston in connection with operating an unlicensed money transmitting business to launder the proceeds of online investment fraud schemes.
Tochukwu Abel Edeh, 32, a Nigerian national previously residing in Jacksonville, Fla., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to one count of money laundering conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business. A sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled by the Court. Edeh was charged by criminal complaint and subsequently indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2021.
Edeh managed used car dealerships and currency transfer services in Texas, Florida and Nigeria. This included a trading company as well as a cryptocurrency firm, both of which were based in Nigeria, through which Edeh exchanged Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for profit.
In or around 2015, Edeh conspired with others to launder and transmit proceeds of Ponzi-style investment fraud schemes based in Nigeria. Specifically, the schemes purported to offer trading and Bitcoin investing services when, in fact, investor funds were stolen and later victims’ investments were used to pay purported returns to earlier investors. Edeh laundered the fraud proceeds using a network of co-conspirators in the United States and using his personal and business accounts in the United States and Nigeria. Edeh, along with his co-conspirators, did not hold money transmitting licenses in their respective states of residence, nor were they registered as money transmitters as required by federal law.
The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Jennifer De La O, Director of Field Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Boston Field Office made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Division of Enforcement at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kriss Basil of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.