The Annor brothers — Lesley Annor, 22, and David Annor, 27 — have been arrested in Gaithersburg, Maryland for a romance and money laundering scam. The million dollar scam involved over 200 victims worldwide.
The alleged criminals along with their co-conspirators abroad had received funds and laundered more than $5 million between April 2017 and November 2020. As per the criminal complaint, the brothers used dating websites and social media to convince victims to send money.
The Annors would get into a romantic relationship with the victims by catfishing them. They would then request money from the victim while assuring them that it would be repaid.
Insights Into the Annor Brothers’ Scam
David Annor had established a company under the name Ravid Enterprise LLC in Maryland. He had registered the company as an auto sales business that allowed buyers to purchase vehicles from an auction.
The Annors had opened 10 different accounts between 2017 and 2020. They used the accounts to collect money and launder the funds from the victims. The brothers kept 10 percent of the money and sent the remaining to their co-conspirators abroad.
According to the affidavit filed to support the complaint, the age of the victims was between 38 and 83. Most of the victims were elderly individuals who were the most vulnerable to the scam. The victims were alleged to have lost between $17,500 and $201,000.
The defendants were part of a large network of criminals that stole money from victims through lies and deceit. They would share tales of hardship and request the victims to send money to one of their accounts. Some of the victims also sent cashier’s check to the home address of the perpetrators.
According to the authorities, the brothers found their victims using dating sites such as Match.com or Facebook. They would then chat with the victims using phone, email, and Google Hangouts.
Details of the Victims of the Scam
Hundreds of victims had fallen head over heels into the scam. One of the victims was a 55-year old woman in Texas who was contacted by a man named Bruce McGee James. She had met James on Facebook who told her that he was an Afghan war veteran.
James told her that he wanted to retrieve a box containing gold, cash, and jewelry from a security company in Ghana. He asked her to say to the shipping company that she was his wife so that they can ship the box to the US. The woman emailed as instructed and received a reply that express delivery would cost $5,000.
After making the payment, the Texan woman continued her online relationship with James. A year later she had received an email from a sham physician who said that James was involved in a car crash in Afghanistan. The physician named ‘Dr. Paul’ said that James would require immediate surgery that will cost him ‘5000 pounds’. The woman again wired the amount into a bank account in the name of David Annor. James continued to ask money from the woman and she lost about $100,000 to the romance scheme.
The affidavit also reveals a 63-year old victim from Virginia who fell prey to a man named ‘Brett Fernley’, whom she had met on Facebook. The man described himself as a Canadian living in Florida but currently working as an underwater welder near Ireland.
Fernley has bilked $177,000 out of the victim through heartless lies. She had to liquidate here 401(k) to help the man who had promised to repay the money.
A third victim mentioned in the affidavit was a 63-year old woman from Hawaii. She had been contacted by a man named ‘John Powell’ using the Samule karoke app. Powell had claimed that he was a military contractor based in Afghanistan. He had asked her for some money so that he can ship a parcel of cash to the victim. The Hawaiian woman had deposited $17,150 to bank accounts of Ravid Enterpirses and David Annor.
The affidavit also mentions a 58-year old man who had sent $201,000 to a woman named Anita Heirich. The victim had met the woman on a dating site Match.com.
Criminal Charges Against the Annor Brothers
Authorities had mentioned 25 victims who had fallen prey to the scheme. They have also identified 200 individuals who are believed to have been a victim of the Annor Brothers’ scheme.
There were multiple co-conspirators of the scheme, who also lied to the victims to extort money. They would gain trust through the lure of gifts and romance. The victims were promised that the money would be repaid.
The co-conspirators lived outside the US. Sometimes they would ask the victims to send them money so that they could fly to the US.
Thurs far, only the Annor brothers have been identified, who had an initial hearing the District Court in Greenbelt. The judge had ordered that the defendants be detained pending trial.
David and Lesley Annor each would spend 20 years in prison, if convicted.
The Federal Trade Commission stated on its website that people have reported losing more than $200 million in romance scams in 2019.
Authorities say that the scammers often say that they work in the military, oil rig, or an international organization. They would ask the victims to send money for a medical expense, plane ticket, custom or visa fees.
Most scammers ask the victims to send money through wired money, reload cards, or gift cards such as iTunes, Google Play, Steam, or Amazon. The payment methods allow the scammers to get money easily while remaining anonymous.
Authorities advise people to avoid paying money or sending gifts to a person they have never met personally. It is also advised to do a reverse image search of the person to see if that image is associated with another name and profile.
If a fake profile is suspected, it is strongly recommended to stop communicating with the person immediately and report it to the FTC or local authorities.