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 BAREND OBERHOLZER, a/k/a “Barry Oberholzer,” the Chief Executive Officer of a defense technology start-up (“Start-Up-1”), pled guilty today in Manhattan federal court in connection with a conspiracy to solicit investment in and financing for Start-Up-1 on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentations regarding financial solvency, access to cash, and use of investor funds. Magistrate Judge Robert W. Lehrburger accepted the defendant’s guilty plea. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “Barend Oberholzer attempted to use the reputation of a retired, four-star Army General in order to solicit investments in his start-up company and a device he developed that purportedly could detect concealed weapons. Instead of attracting investors honestly, Oberholzer lied continuously to make his company more appealing to investors. Fortunately, law enforcement was able to detect the defendant’s lies, and he is now facing substantial time in prison.”
According to the allegations in the Indictment and other filings and statements made in court:
Beginning in or around 2018, OBERHOLZER began soliciting investments in Start-Up-1 and a purported security device it had developed (“Security Device-1”) from at least two venture capital firms on false pretenses. OBERHOLZER sent multiple emails to the firms, posing as a retired, four-star General in the United States Army (“Retired General-1”), who was employed by a prominent private equity firm based in New York, New York (“Private Equity Firm-1”). Therein, OBERHOLZER, posing as Retired General-1, endorsed and solicited investment in Start-Up-1 and Security Device-1, a smartphone case that purportedly permitted its users to detect at a distance weapons or other dangerous items concealed on another person.
OBERHOLZER and his co-conspirator, JAROMY PITTARIO, a/k/a “Jaromy Jannard-Pittario,” also solicited investments in and loans to Start-Up-1 and Security Device-1 by falsely representing, among other things, their financial solvency, access to cash, and use of investor funds. For instance, the pair repeatedly provided falsified financial statements to potential creditors to secure funding.
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OBERHOLZER, 39, of Calabasas, California, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. PITTARIO previously pled guilty on January 26, 2023. The sentencing of PITTARIO is scheduled for May 25, 2023, before Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr., and the sentencing of OBERHOLZER is scheduled for July 11, 2023.
The maximum potential sentence in this case is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the New York Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jilan J. Kamal and Timothy V. Capozzi are in charge of the prosecution.