Greenbelt, Maryland – Lesley Annor, age 23, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to conspiracy to commit money laundering, in connection with a romance scheme in which conspiracy members induced elderly and isolated victims to send money to co-conspirators based on romantic assertions and other misrepresentations. Annor and his co-conspirators received and laundered the payments from the victims.
The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – Washington Field Office (FBI); Postal Inspector in Charge Daniel Adame of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Washington Division (USPIS); and Special Agent in Charge Matthew R. Stohler of the United States Secret Service – Washington Field Office (USSS).
According to his guilty plea, between May 2017 and October 2020, Annor participated in a romance scheme in which his co-conspirators targeted elderly victims online, typically through social media, dating websites, e-mail, and online applications. Once the conspiracy members convinced the victims to trust them, the conspiracy members would instruct the victims to send money to bank accounts and physical addresses linked to Annor and conspiracy members. Conspirators often received 10 percent of the victim’s money and sent the remainder of the money to co-conspirators located in Ghana.
For example, in June 2019, Victim 4, a man born in 1962, met a woman on a popular dating website whom he thought to be named “Anita”. According to Victim 4, after a week of communicating on the dating website, Anita confessed her love for Victim 4 and told him that she would relocate from Germany to the United States to be with Victim 4. Anita then informed Victim 4 that as a result of her parents’ death, she was to receive an inheritance. However, there were various fees that needed to be paid in order to obtain the inheritance. Anita further told Victim 4 that her grandfather was helping her with the inheritance. According to Victim 4, Anita also told Victim 4 that two conspiracy members were accountants for Anita’s grandfather and that Victim 4 should send money to the addresses linked to the two co-conspirators.
In September 2019, Victim 4 cashed out his 401 (k) retirement account, purchased two cashier’s checks totaling approximately $201,000, and mailed the cashier’s checks to conspiracy members at Annor’s residence. According to the plea agreement, bank records show that multiple cashier’s checks and money orders totaling $206,500 from Victim 4 were deposited into three different bank accounts that conspiracy members opened in their own names.
Over the course of the scheme, Annor and his co-conspirators laundered over $6,200,000 through approximately 34 bank accounts at 11 different financial institutions. At least $447,872 in victim payments were made into personal bank accounts controlled by Annor.
Annor has been in custody since his arrest on November 16, 2020.
Annor faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for money laundering. U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel has scheduled sentencing for October 29, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
The Department of Justice runs the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311), has an interactive tool for elders who have been financially exploited to help determine to which agency they should report their incident, and also a senior scam alert website. Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at this website or by calling 1-800-225-5324. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the FBI, USPIS, and the USSS for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leah B. Grossi and Thomas P. Windom and Special Assistant United States Attorney Jessica C. Harvey from the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, who are prosecuting the case.
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