An American court slapped a Kenyan woman – Florence Mwende Musau – with a Ksh119 million fine for defrauding unsuspecting victims of thousands of dollars under the pretext of love.
Last year, Mwende, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud. She and five others were charged on March 25, 2021, in connection with their roles in romance scams that allegedly collectively defrauded victims of more than $4 million(Kshs497 million).
Court documents indicated Mwende participated in a series of online scams designed to defraud victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by her and others.
To carry out the scams, Mwende used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to collect and launder the proceeds of the romance scams.
She then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, often multiple times on a single day and generally structured in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.
During court proceedings, the prosecution mentioned that Mwende played a minimal role and was acting on the instructions of her boyfriend, Mark Okuo.
In March 2022, Okuo pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. His sentence hearing was scheduled for March 29.
In a statement dated Tuesday, January 31, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said Massachusetts judge Allison Burroughs directed the Kenyan woman to pay $957,000(Ksh119 million) in restitution and sentenced her to 44 months in prison.
The court further slapped her with an additional 30 months of supervised release and ordered her to surrender money in her account as well as her car.
“Mwende Musau was also ordered to pay approximately Ksh119 million (USD957,000) in restitution and forfeit approximately Ksh43.5 million (USD350,000) and a Lexus sports SUV,” the statement read in part.
Mwende, a graduate of the Technical University of Kenya (TUK), travelled to the US in 2018 on a tourist visa. She then acquired a work permit visa.
She was a resident of Canton City in northeast Ohio