Prominent Ghanaian Influencer Charged For Role In Romance Scheme And Extradited From United Kingdom To The United States
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that NATALIA KORZHA and VLADISLAV NECEAEV were sentenced today in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit bank fraud in connection with a scheme to launder money derived from an online vehicle sale scam that generated at least $5.3 million from dozens of defrauded consumers. KORZHA was sentenced to 48 months in prison and NECEAEV was sentenced to 18 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres, before whom they previously pled guilty.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Natalia Korzha and Vladislav Neceaev opened or caused others to open fraudulent bank accounts that were used to launder millions of dollars in criminal proceeds from an online vehicle sale scam. Without those fraudulent accounts, online fraudsters would not be able to profit from their illegal schemes. Korzha and Neceaev now face terms of imprisonment and will be required to forfeit their ill-gotten gains.”
In imposing today’s sentences, Judge Torres said that KORZHA and NECEAEV caused “real harm to [the victims’] financial well-being” and noted that victims reported having been hurt “mentally, emotionally and physically.”
As alleged in the Complaint and the Indictments, and based on statements made in court:
From at least March 2019 through approximately March 2021, KORZHA managed a money laundering operation based in Brooklyn that included co-defendant VLADISLAV NECEAEV and others. With KORZHA as coordinator, NECEAEV and other co-conspirators opened numerous bank accounts in the name of shell companies for the purpose of laundering money stolen from consumers who were trying to buy vehicles online. In exchange, the defendants received a cut of the victims’ money.
Other members of the conspiracy, pretending to represent car dealerships, advertised vehicles that they did not own and were not authorized to sell on fake websites with domain names that sounded like legitimate car dealerships or through online marketplaces like Craigslist and eBay. Victims who responded to those advertisements and negotiated a purchase price were instructed by the purported sellers to wire payment to accounts that NECEAEV and other co-conspirators opened. Once the payments cleared, the defendants quickly withdrew the funds before the victims realized they had been defrauded. The victims never received the vehicles or any refunds from the fake sellers. In total, dozens of victims were defrauded of a total of at least $5.3 million.
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In addition to her prison term, KORZHA, 50, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $5,386,538 and pay restitution in the amount of $5,370,180.
In addition to his term of imprisonment, NECEAEV, 28, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced to three years’ supervised release and ordered to forfeit $458,300 and pay restitution in the amount of $458,300.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of Homeland Security Investigations and the New York Police Department. He also thanked the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division, the United States Marshals Service, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania, and the Lithuanian Criminal Police Bureau for their assistance in this investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Lai is in charge of the prosecution.