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Press Release

Woman Convicted By Jury In Manhattan Federal Court Of Impersonating A Federal Official

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York
Sandra Zongo Claimed to be the “Deputy Commissioner of Foreign Affairs” While Passing Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars in Fake Purchase Orders.

Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and David E. Beach, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service New York Field Office (“USSS”), announced today that SANDRA ZONGO, a/k/a “Sandra Nelson,” a/k/a “Akiwa Gizzel,” was convicted today by a jury of impersonating an officer or employee of the United States, passing fictitious government obligations, wire fraud, and attempting to commit wire fraud in seeking benefits from the Human Resources Administration. ZONGO was convicted following a nine-day trial in Manhattan before U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood.


U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Today, a unanimous jury convicted Sandro Zongo of posing as a federal government employee and using fake documents to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods and services from her victims. Claiming she was a Commissioner for a made-up organization with ties to the United Nations, Zongo defrauded hotels, restaurants and other vendors with fake invoices and went as far as defraud a charity for military veterans.”


Special Agent in Charge David Beach said: “The Secret Service places a priority on investigating criminals, who prey on the residents of this city and their businesses through deceit and false solicitations for real charities. Working with our partners with the NYPD to arrest these criminals and deter others from committing similar schemes, the Secret Service pursues complex crimes with significant community impact.”


According to the allegations in the Indictment, other documents publicly filed in Manhattan federal court, and the evidence introduced at trial:


In October 2014, the United States Secret Service began investigating ZONGO, who had been holding herself out as the “Deputy Commissioner” of the “Office of the Commissioner.” The “Office of the Commissioner” purported to be an “Intergovernmental Organization” and claimed to be funded by the federal government in doing work with the United Nations. In fact, the organization was not federally funded and had no affiliation with the United Nations. While purporting to be a “Deputy Commissioner,” ZONGO obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in goods and services from hotels, restaurants, and other Manhattan vendors using fake government purchase orders, certificates of indebtedness, and other fraudulent documents. Among other things, ZONGO defrauded a charity holding an event designed to benefit injured veterans of $150,000.


While ZONGO was claiming to be the “Deputy Commissioner of Foreign Affairs,” she also submitted fraudulent documents to the Human Resources Administration in her application for housing benefits, including letters in which she claimed to be an “intern.”


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ZONGO, 47, of New York, New York, was convicted of one count of passing fictitious obligations, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison; one count of impersonating an official or employee of the United States government, which carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison; one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and one count of attempted wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.


The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.


Mr. Bharara praised the work of the United States Secret Service, and thanked the Criminal Investigators of the Southern District New York, the New York City Police Department, the Human Resources Administration, the United States Postal Service–Office of Inspector General, as well as the United States Postal Inspection Service.


The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Fender, Kiersten Fletcher, Janis Echenberg, and Christopher DiMase are in charge of the prosecution; paralegal specialist Jenny Satinover provided additional support.




Updated January 27, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-027