Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel sentenced Evans Appiah, a/k/a Sean Carter, age 28, of Silver Spring, Maryland, on September 12, 2016, to seven years in prison, followed by four years of supervised release, for conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft arising from an internet romance scheme in which the victims were defrauded of more than $300,000. Judge Hazel also ordered Appiah to forfeit and pay restitution of $303,800.11, the total amount of the loss. Appiah has been detained since Judge Hazel ordered that he be immediately taken into custody following the jury’s guilty verdict on May 4, 2016.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Special Agent in Charge James Murray of the United States Secret Service – Washington Field Office; and Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department.
According to testimony at his six day trial, Appiah and his co-conspirators searched online dating websites and initiated romantic relationships with male and female victims in order to obtain money from them. The relationships began with emails and instant messaging and escalated to telephone calls and primarily text messages. After gaining the victims trust, Appiah and his co-conspirators began asking for money for a variety of reasons, often invoking false stories and promises to convince the victims to send them money.
According to evidence presented at trial, from December 2013 through June 2015, Appiah opened and maintained accounts in order to receive money from the victims. Once the victims had deposited the funds requested by Appiah and the co-conspirators into the accounts controlled by Appiah, he disbursed the money by transferring it to other accounts, withdrawing cash, and by purchasing goods for shipment to co-conspirators outside of the United States. At least eleven confirmed victims were defrauded of more than $300,000.
Appiah also used the name and identifying information of one victim in particular, while depositing one of the victim cashier’s checks into his own bank account.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI Baltimore, the U.S. Secret Service and Montgomery County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Windom and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer L. Wine, who prosecuted the case.