Three men have been charged in a scheme to use a promise of romance to con a Central Kentucky woman out of $757,000 in just over four months.
Court documents do not identify the woman, saying only that she is from Nicholasville.
The three men charged are Baaki Abdul Majeed, of Tacoma, Wash.; Kahad A. Wuupini, of Auburn, Wash., a citizen of Ghana with permanent resident status in the U.S.; and Thomas D. Inkoom of Newardk, N.J., also a Ghanaian citizen with permanent resident status in America.
Majeed and Wuupini were indicted in federal court in Lexington on charges of conspiring to commit mail fraud.
Along with Inkoom, they also face charges of money laundering and taking part in illegal financial transactions.
The most serious charges have a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The indictment alleges that Majeed, Wuupini and others targeted the woman through a social networking site.
The alleged con men impersonated a man named James Nehmer to commit an “online romance scheme” against the Kentucky woman, who believed she was in a relationship with Nehmer, the indictment said.
Majeed, Wuupini and co-conspirators convinced the victim to send money for an investment in gold and silver that didn’t really exist, the indictment charged.
The alleged scammers sometimes had the victim put “Mercedes G” or “Condo” in the memo line of the check, but she didn’t buy a car or condo, the indictment said.
The woman sent a total of $757,000 between April 22, 2017 and Sept. 5, 2017 to the men charged in the case or to businesses they controlled, the indictment said.
The indictment listed checks as large as $95,000. The victim sent two checks for that amount the same day in May 2017 from two different bank accounts.
A grand jury indicted the men in August, but the document was initially sealed. The three are set for initial court appearances this week in Lexington.
The FBI confirmed that the case is linked to an arrest from 2017 in Jessamine County.
In that case, FBI special agent James Huggins said in a sworn statement that a woman who believed she was in a romantic relationship with a U.S. Army sergeant named James Nehmer had sent him more than $600,000.
The victim and Nehmer communicated through Facebook.
The con man told the victim he had found $10 million worth of gold and jewels in Ghana, which is in Africa, and needed money to get it out of the country and have it shipped to the U.S., according to the court record.
An FBI search found that the photo of the person using the name Nehmer was of an Army sergeant whose name and picture had been used dozens of times in military romance scams originating in Ghana and Nigeria, according to Huggins’ statement.
An FBI accountant determined that two people listed as payees on the woman’s checks lived in Washington State and the New Jersey area, but that both were from Ghana originally, the affidavit said.
The FBI arrested a man who came to Nicholasville to pick up more money from the victim.
However, prosecutors moved to dismiss the charge after the investigation showed that man was also a victim who had been coerced in a separate scam to come to Kentucky and get money from the victim here.
A subsequent investigation showed that Baaki, Inkoom and Wuupini were allegedly operating an international fraud ring with multiple victims in Kentucky, the FBI said.