Florence Mwende Musau, 38, A Kenyan woman, who is currently living in Canton, USA, was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison for her role as a sort of banker for an online romance scheme targeting lonely older women and later for filing fake pandemic-relief applications.
In addition to prison time for the charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, US District Court Judge Allison Burroughs also ordered Mwende also known as Precious Adams to pay $957,000(Ksh 119,242,200) in restitution and to forfeit approximately $350,000(Ksh43,610,000) and a Lexus SUV, the US Attorney’s office reports.
Musau agreed to plead guilty in 2021, tried to withdraw that agreement, and then agreed to plead guilty again.
Her live-in fellow scammer, Mark Arome Okuo, pleaded guilty to his role in the frauds earlier this month and faces sentencing on March 29. The US Attorney’s office says it will recommend between 46 and 57 months in prison and the forfeiture of almost $103,000 seized when he was arrested in 2021.
Prosecutors say that before the pandemic, Okuo and others – Boston was something of a romance-fraud hub – managed to convince a number of women via social media that they were American servicemen overseas looking for some love when they got back home, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case.
Musau set up bank accounts across the Boston area – using fake passports from South Africa and the UK – to which her accomplices would direct their snared alleged romantic partners – or as they referred to them, “mugu,” or “fools” in Nigerian slang – to send money to, the affidavit states.
In several cases, the men online convinced women they were in trouble or were essentially being held overseas for ransom by their commanding officers and convinced the women to send money to accounts created by Musau or Okuo.
“To further the conspiracy, Musau used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to receive the proceeds of the romance scams. Musau then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, generally structured in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.”
“Musau also received the proceeds of fraudulent state pandemic unemployment assistance benefits in the names of victims. As part of the scheme, Musau used at least three different aliases to open nearly ten fraudulent bank accounts and receive approximately $1 million in fraud proceeds,” part of the press release stated.
Musau and Okuo would then take out the money in several withdrawals – always under $10,000 to try to avoid attention – and then abandon the accounts.
After the pandemic hit, Musau added a side gig: Obtaining at least two people’s personal information, which she used to create bogus accounts on the Massachusetts unemployment Web site to collect pandemic unemployment payments, the affidavit continues.