COLUMBUS, Ohio — A Lewis Center man pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday for his role in conspiring to launder $2.4 million from online romance scams for about two years.
Eric Ahiekpor, 50, also admitted to fraudulently misapplying CARES Act loan funds to buy himself boats while out on release from his initial charges, according to acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Vipal Patel.
Kwame Yeboah of Columbus and Robert Asante of Canal Winchester also pleaded guilty in the money laundering scheme.
According to court documents, the trio created several profiles on online dating sites. After establishing relationships, they would ask for money for investment opportunities or other reasons.
The victims were sent account information and where the money should be sent. Patel says the names on the accounts were in Ahiekpor, Yeboah, Asante's names, their family's names or in the names of their companies. The money was not used for the reasons the three gave their victims.
By pleading guilty, Patel says Ahiekpor is not accused of committing romance fraud, but instead admits that he helped Yeboah and Asante move the money from the United States to Ghana.
Meanwhile, while Ahiekpor was on release from the romance scam case, Patel says he got a coronavirus relief loan for $150,000 for a business he owned, Premier Choice Health Services in Columbus, and spent the money on a $32,000 boat, another boat, a motor and a boat trailer.
Patel says Ahiekpor continued to misapply the loan money after his release from the money laundering charges.
Conspiracy to launder money and wire fraud are criminal charges punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine and forfeiture of any money involved in the crimes.