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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal grand jury sitting in Charlotte indicted Suleman Alhassan, 36, a Ghanaian national residing in Charlotte, on wire and mail fraud conspiracy and mail fraud changes, for perpetrating romance and precious metal scams totaling more than $1,000,000 against older victims, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. The criminal indictment was unsealed in federal court today, following Alhassan’s arrest.
David M. McGinnis, Inspector in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and John Eisert, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte join U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
According to allegations contained in the indictment, beginning in or about March 2016, Alhassan and his unindicted co-conspirators operated a romance scheme based, in part, in Ghana and in Charlotte. The indictment alleges that Alhassan and his co-conspirators, using fake identities, used online dating websites and other methods to target potential fraud victims, who were frequently elderly, with false promises of a romantic relationship. As part of the scheme and in addition to developing fake romantic relationships with the victims, Alhassan and others falsely claimed to own large quantities of gold located in Ghana and falsely told victims that the victims needed to send funds via wire transfer services, money orders, and in cash to Alhassan and his co-conspirators to help ship the gold from Ghana to the United States, or to another foreign country, where the gold could be sold. The indictment further alleges that Alhassan and his co-conspirators falsely told the victims that they would receive a share of the profits when the gold was sold or brought into the United States.
According to the indictment, Alhassan and his co-conspirators further induced victims to send funds under the guise of securing travel documents for the person with whom the victim believed to be in a romantic relationship. To induce the victims to send even more money, Alhassand and his co-conspirators used fictitious problems, including problems with travel visas, customs related issues, etc. The indictment alleges that Alhassan and his co-conspirators continued to call, text, and e-mail the victims and insist that additional payments be made for new fees, until the victims either ran out of money or discovered the fraudulent nature of the scheme. The indictment alleges that the total loss associated with the scheme is more than $1,000,000.
Alhassan made his initial appearance in federal court this morning, before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer. The mail and wire fraud conspiracy charge and each mail fraud charge carry a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.
The details contained in this indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
USPIS and HSI are leading the investigation. Assistant United States Attorney Jenny G. Sugar, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is in charge of the prosecution.
In March 2019, Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, announced the Office’s Elder Justice Initiative, which aims to combat elder financial exploitation by expanding efforts to investigate and prosecute financial scams that target seniors; educate older adults on how to identify scams and avoid becoming victims of financial fraud; and promote greater coordination with law enforcement partners. For more information please visit: https://edit.justice.gov/usao-wdnc/elder-justice-initiative