Seven Individuals Arrested in Connection With $7.5 Million Multi-State Paycheck Protection Program Scheme
BOSTON – A Texas man and an Arkansas woman were arrested today in connection with allegedly operating a money transmitting business that laundered the proceeds of online investment fraud schemes.
Charles Ochi, 27, of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Danielle Liggins, 32, of Little Rock, Ark., were charged with one count of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business. Ochi and Liggins were arrested this morning in the Northern District of Texas and the Western District of Arkansas, respectively, and will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.
According to the charging document, Ochi met Liggins in Texas through a dating website and convinced Liggins to help him run a cryptocurrency company, even though Liggins did not know anything about cryptocurrency. It is alleged that Ochi and Liggins used two sham companies to 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.
To conduct the scheme, Liggins allegedly opened bank accounts at Ochi’s direction and used sham businesses, Global Prime and Liggins Starflexx Commercial, to receive money from investing victims, which she either withdrew or mailed to individuals designated by Ochi using cashier’s checks. For each transaction, Ochi paid Liggins about $1,000. Liggins and Ochi allegedly transmitted fraud proceeds from at least three online investment fraud schemes, with victims in Massachusetts, California, Florida and Canada. Ochi and Liggins did not hold money transmitting licenses in Texas, nor were they registered as money transmitters as required by federal law.
The charge of conspiracy to operate 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 value of the laundered funds, 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.
The details contained in the charging document are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.