CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – A convicted participant in a multimillion-dollar romance fraud scam is helping the Southern District of West Virginia sound the alarm about these schemes, said United States Attorney Will Thompson.
Thompson’s office has launched a digital awareness campaign that features 15- and 30-second public service announcements as well as a long-form video alerting West Virginians to online fraud scams. The campaign focuses on how the elderly population is particularly at risk.
The long-form video includes warnings from Kenneth Emeni, 30, a citizen of Nigeria who admitted to participating in a Huntington-based scheme that defrauded at least 200 victims, many of whom are elderly, of at least $2.5 million. In the video, Emeni explains how false personas were created to establish romantic, friendship or business relationships with unwitting individuals via email, text messaging, online dating websites and social media platforms. Emeni also offers examples of how victims were persuaded to send money for a variety of false and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of the false personas.
“As part of his acceptance of responsibility for his crime, Mr. Emeni agreed to provide a firsthand account of how these scams identify, target and exploit their victims,” Thompson said. “We hope this awareness campaign will help West Virginians safeguard themselves and their loved ones against fraudulent schemes.”
Emeni pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, and was sentenced on December 19, 2022, to one year and one day in prison.
The awareness videos also provide the number for the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
The public is also encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams athttps://www.ic3.gov.
All three awareness campaign videos are available on the YouTube Channel for the U.S. Attorney’s Office: https://www.youtube.com/@USAOSDWV. The PSA videos will appear over the next two months on YouTube and various social media platforms, apps and websites.