Ghanaian woman extradited to US to face over $10m fraud-related charges and ‘sakawa’

The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington. Photo by Jonathan Ernst

A 33-year-old Ghanaian lady has been extradited to the United States (US) to face fraud-related charges.

Deborah Mensah is wanted by the United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation for a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme involving business email compromises and romance scams targeting the elderly.

According to the Justice Department, Ms Mensah, who is the eighth defendant charged in the case, was extradited from Ghana to the United States on August 21, 2020. 

She was arrested on January 16, 2020, in Accra for charges in connection with a fraud conspiracy based in Ghana involving the theft of over $10 million through business email compromises and romance scams that targeted the elderly from at least in or about 2014 through in or about 2018. 

Ms Mensah was presented in the Manhattan federal court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Debra Freeman on August 26. Her case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote.

Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “Deborah Mensah is alleged to have been a participant in a conspiracy that resulted in the theft of millions of dollars from businesses and vulnerable individuals across the United States, and the laundering of that money through a network of bank accounts in Bronx to co-conspirators in Ghana.  Now she is in the United States and facing charges under U.S. law.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Ms. Mensah may have believed hiding in Ghana protected her from facing justice for her alleged role in this scheme. 

“She now knows the FBI’s reach is global through our formidable network of law enforcement partners. Others should take heed – we won’t go away simply because it may take time to go get you.  If you break our laws, you will pay the price.”

IRS-CI Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen said: “As alleged in the criminal complaint, Ms Mensah’s desire for money drove her to prey upon the vulnerable in our society. Thanks to the financial expertise of IRS-CI special agents working side-by-side with our law enforcement partners, the long arm of the law caught up with Ms Mensah in Ghana, and she will now face the consequences of her alleged actions.”

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Below is the timeline of happenings:

From at least in or about 2014 through in or about 2018, Ms Mensah was a member of a  criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Ghana that committed a series of business email compromises and romance scams against individuals and businesses located across the United States, including in the Southern District of New York. 

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