Sherman grand jury indicts 23 people in international fraud, money laundering conspiracy

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 9:26 PM CDT
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SHERMAN, Texas (KXII) - Twenty-three people were indicted by a federal grand jury in Sherman last month for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Texas the 23 people named in the indictment are alleged to have used “a multitude of fraud schemes, including romance scams, investment fraud and business email compromise, to steal at least $17 million.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said the 23 individuals were “arrested and arraigned this week.” Among them, Nosoregbe Asemota, aka “Patrick Asemota,” 46, of Melissa.

“The criminal conduct alleged in this case is sophisticated in its means, expansive in its scope and callous in its aims,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “The indictment alleges a scheme where all manner of fraud—including romance and investment scams—was unleashed on an unsuspecting American public, including the elderly and most vulnerable, with the ill-gotten gains syphoned off and funneled overseas.”

Ganjei called the financial and emotional, alleged in this case “nothing short of staggering.”

The indictment states that once they fraudulently obtained funds from their victims, the indicted individuals that have already been arrested laundered the money through a network of various bank accounts and sent money to bank accounts, co-conspirators and businesses located in Africa and Asia.

The indictment also states the 23 individuals allegedly obtained at least $17 million from at least 100 individual victims, companies and government entities from across the world and are alleged to have specifically targeted elderly persons and used various schemes such as online dating sites to lure their victims.

Joseph Rush said phishing profiles, messages and emails he’s encountered are common and easy to spot.

“I never do it because I know it’s a scam,” Rush said. “It usually seems almost like it’s a bot where they’ll be like ‘how are you?’ and you’ll be like ‘I’m good’ and then you’ll just say something off the wall like ‘I just ate a live fish.’”

Sergeant Brett Mullen with the Sherman Police Department says people around Rush’s age, teenagers, aren’t always the target of these scams, as this indictment indicates.

“The elderly are the ones targeted in these often because they’re a little naïve, or there’s some things they don’t know about technology or some things where they can be taken advantage of,” Mullen said.

Mullen said the main goal of these scammers is to get money.

“They target the loneliness and that desire for romance, or someone to talk to,” Mullen said. “Usually what they’ll do is they’ll have a fake account, they’ll start chatting for several days to build up some kind of trust.”

Mullen says the best thing to do is to tell older family members these threats are out there online.

“Make sure you’re communicating with them about what should be red flags, people that are just straight up asking for money that you don’t know, and anyone that’s just coming to you unsolicited offering services that should be a big red flag as well,” Mullen said.

Mullen said the most common scams he’s come across online are people asking for money in the form of crypto currency, or prepaid gift or credit cards and come up with stories as to why they need it.

“It should be a red flag when someone says they’re living outside of the United States, or if they’re unable to meet in person for some reason,” Mullen said. “We’ve seen people say they’re in the military, or that they’re part of some international organization that they’re travelling abroad for.”

He said he’s even seen people fall victim being asked for Visas or airline tickets in these kinds of scams.

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