Montgomery County Man Pleads Guilty in a $1.1 Million Fraud Scheme Targeting Victims Found on Online Dating Sites
GREENBELT, MD—Krist Koranteng, age 33, of Burtonsville and Laurel, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to a mail and wire fraud conspiracy, and to money laundering, in connection with a scheme in which the conspirators pretended to be romantically interested in the victims in order to cause the victims to wire, deposit, and mail money to Koranteng’s business. The total losses to the victims, including elderly individuals, as a result of the scheme are more than $1.1 million. Koranteng also pleaded guilty to violating his supervised release for a previous federal drug conviction.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Stephen E. Vogt of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service—Washington Field Office; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, between September 2012 and February 2014, Koranteng and others executed a scheme in which the conspirators searched online dating websites to initiate romantic relationships with men and women, including several elderly individuals, in order to obtain money from those individuals. Members of the conspiracy used phone calls, e-mails, and text messages to form romantic relationships with the victims.
According to the plea agreement, to execute the scheme, the conspirators used a number of false stories and promises to convince the victims to give money to the members of the conspiracy, including: stories about investing in fake gold that required payments for shipping and storage; fictitious sick family members who needed money; fake hospital bills; and fake plane trips to visit the victims. Members of the conspiracy convinced the victims to mail checks to Kristsons LLC, a corporation that Koranteng created and controlled, or to wire money into bank accounts held in the name of that corporation, which Koranteng also controlled.
To conceal the scheme from the victims, the conspirators created false documents, including false certificates of origin certifying the existence of gold bars, and false documentation creating the impression that the gold bars were being stored at a safe house for a fee.
Koranteng disbursed the money that he received from the victims by transferring money to other accounts, by withdrawing sums of money, and by writing checks to other individuals. For example, on May 30, 2013, Koranteng transferred by wire $39,039.88 from one of his business’ bank accounts to another account, with the knowledge that the transaction involved the proceeds of a criminal offense.
Koranteng was regularly in communication with his co-conspirators immediately following a victim’s transfer of money into Koranteng’s business bank accounts. For example, on February 20, 2013, a victim transferred $25,000 into Koranteng’s business bank account in Maryland. That same day, Koranteng’s co-conspirator sent an e-mail to Koranteng that included two attachments: a receipt for that victim’s wire transfer; and a purported agreement indicating the victim believed she was investing in gold bars by transferring the money to Koranteng.
In addition to receiving money from the victims during the conspiracy, Koranteng also used a false name to order and send roses to one victim. Shortly thereafter, that victim mailed a check in the amount of $65,000 to Koranteng’s business in Maryland, which Koranteng deposited.
As part of his plea agreement, Koranteng will be required to pay restitution of $1,171,657, which represents the full amount of the victims’ losses.
Koranteng’s participation in the wire and mail fraud conspiracy violated the terms of his supervised release for a 2013 conviction for conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin.
Koranteng faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud; and a maximum of 10 years in prison for money laundering. Koranteng also faces a maximum of three years in prison for violating his federal supervised release. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for July 2, 2015, at 9:30 a.m. Koranteng remains detained pending sentencing.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation, and thanked the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for its assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Leah J. Bressack and David I. Salem, who are prosecuting the case.