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Virginia man hit with 9 years for scamming over $35M from victims

A Virginia man was slapped with nine years behind bars by a federal judge for running a Ghana-based criminal enterprise to scheme businesses and people out of tens of millions of dollars, authorities said Wednesday.

Fred Asante made more than $35 million over a four-year span by scamming businesses, tricking older victims into online romances and illegally applying for federal COVID loans, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Asante was arrested in 2021 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in February.

US Attorney Damian Williams called Asante’s sentence Wednesday a “substantial prison term.”

 “Fred Asante set up companies that appeared to be involved in legitimate business, but in reality they were simply fronts that he used to receive and launder millions of dollars for a criminal enterprise in Ghana that defrauded American businesses and individuals through online scams,” Williams said.

Asante, 37, opened 19 bank accounts based in New York, New Jersey and Virginia at more than 10 different banks as part of his money-laundering operation, the feds said.

Part of Asante’s enterprise scammed old and lonely adults into believing they were in romantic relationships with people that were under fake identities, according to the US Attorney’s Office. Those victims were messaged by the members of the enterprise through email, text or online dating apps.

US Attorney Damian Williams said that Fred Asante laundered “millions of dollars for a criminal enterprise in Ghana that defrauded American businesses and individuals.”
AP/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez

Members of the criminal enterprise convinced those adults to wire money under false pretenses into bank accounts that were actually controlled by the perps, authorities said.

The criminal group also swindled businesses by convincing them to wire money to them by impersonating employees or third parties that worked with the company over email, authorities said.

When the COVID pandemic hit, Asante and others submitted fake loan applications to the federal government’s small business program by using the names of actual companies, the US Attorney said.

More than 80 victims were identified.

Once Asante grabbed up illegal proceeds, he bought cars, food products and other US-based goods connected to fake companies he set up and shipped them to Ghana and other places out of the country, according to the US Attorney.

As part of his sentencing, Asante will also need to forfeit $647,488 and was slapped with $2.3 million in restitution.

Asante’s co-defendant, Lord Aning, was sentenced to two years in February.  

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