Baltimore, Maryland –U.S. District Judge George L. Russell, III sentenced Mohammed “Kofi” Kwaning, age 37, of Laurel, Maryland late on September 4, 2018, to 121 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, as well as bank and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The sentence was imposed in connection with a fraud scheme in which Kwaning and his co-conspirators attempted to steal nearly $1.4 million in funds from the personal, retirement, and business accounts of various victims. Kwaning is a lawful permanent resident of the United States and a citizen of Ghana. A federal jury convicted Kwaning and two co-defendants on November 2, 2017.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement - Homeland Security Investigations, Baltimore Office; and Chief Terrence B. Sheridan of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to evidence at presented at his 10-day trial, in 2014, Mohammed Kwaning and other conspirators acquired account information of individual victims, including from investment account management firms, as well as forged checks containing bank account information of both individual and corporate victims from across the United States.
Co-conspirator Issah Mohammed then recruited individuals, including Mark Dennis, Charles Mensah, and others, who registered corporate shell entities with the state of Maryland. The recruits then set up bank accounts at multiple banking institutions in the names of these shell entities. Mohammed Kwaning then either directed that the funds from the compromised accounts be wired into the bank accounts opened in the names of the shell entities or provided altered or fabricated checks from compromised accounts to Issah Mohammed. Mohammed then provided the checks to Mark Dennis, Charles Mensah, and the other recruits to be deposited into the shell entities’ bank accounts. The recruits would then attempt to withdraw the stolen funds before the banks discovered that the source of the funds were compromised accounts.
Some of the accounts were compromised by individuals who called investment firms pretending to be the actual account holders, and then eventually providing enough correct answers in order to reset the password for the account. Individuals also hacked the e-mails of victims and, posing as the account holders, requested funds be wired from their retirement accounts to the bank accounts of the shell corporations controlled by the conspirators. The attempted loss during the nine months of the scheme was over $1.3 million, and the conspirators were able to withdraw over $229,000 of stolen funds, which they then split amongst themselves.
Mark Dennis, age 30, of Laurel, Maryland, and Charles Mensah, age 32, of the Bronx, New York, were also convicted at trial and sentenced to 27 months and 30 months in prison, respectively, each followed by five years of supervised release. Issah Mohammed, age 31, of Laurel, previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI Baltimore and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Judson T. Mihok and Paul E. Budlow, who prosecuted this case.