Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Athens Fraud of $800,000

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A Maryland man pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to stealing more than $1.1 million though a scheme in which the conspirators pretended to be romantically interested in the victims.

According to court documents, one of the victims was an Athens resident who lost more than $800,000.

Krist Koranteng, 33, is scheduled to be sentenced July 2 in U.S. District Court in Maryland after he pleaded guilty Friday to a mail and wire fraud conspiracy and to money laundering, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland.

A court document lists one of the victims as “Victim 3 of Athens, Ohio.”

A stipulation of facts signed by Koranteng, and included in a plea agreement, states that Victim 3 sent nine wire transfers to Koranteng accounts totalling $609,769 and five checks to Koranteng’s company totaling $275,000.

“During the conspiracy, Koranteng looked up Victim 3 online,” the document states.

At least some, if not all, of the transfers were initiated by a co-conspirator who identified himself as “Mark Smith,” according to the stipulation of facts.

An email sent to Koranteng by a co-conspirator included a purported loan agreement between Mark Smith of Columbus and Victim 3 related to a $25,000 transfer, according to the stipulation document. It claims that the loan was needed to “do documentation work on 3 trunks of gold bars with a value of $1,500,000” and that Smith promises to “give back all the loan help I will receive from (Victim 3).”

In November of 2013, Koranteng used a false name to order and send three roses to Victim 3, according to the stipulation document. Shortly thereafter, Victim 3 sent a check for $65,000 to Koranteng’s company.

Court documents indicate that at least some of the money sent by Victim 3 came from an Individual Retirement Account.

“As part of the scheme, members of the conspiracy used phone conversations, emails and text messaged to form romantic relationships with the victims, including … Victim 3…,” the stipulation of facts states.

According to the news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Koranteng and other conspirators searched online dating websites to initiate romantic relationships with men and women, including several elderly people, in order to obtain money.

The conspirators used false stories and promises to convince the victims to give money to 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, according to the news release.

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, the news release states. It is unclear from court documents whether Koranteng has that money.