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Union Omaha player among 9 men charged in West Virginia scam case

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 3:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A Union Omaha player was among nine people listed in an indictment out of West Virginia this week charging them with defrauding 200 people out of at least $2.5 million total.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Abdul Osumanu, 26, a citizen of Ghana who lives in Omaha, was among those arrested in a multi-agency sweep Tuesday. The nine men will face various fraud-related charges, including mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and receipt of stolen property.

Osumanu is facing six counts: two mail fraud charges, two wire-fraud charges, one money-laundering charge, and a charge of receiving stolen money. He’s due in a West Virginia courtroom next week.

The indictments allege that the suspects “participated in a series of romance and other online scams designed to coerce vulnerable victims into sending money to various bank accounts controlled by them.” Court documents state that the scams targeted individuals looking for various sorts of relationships on dating websites and other social media platforms.

The victims were led to believe that the men were U.S. residents working abroad. However, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office release, all but one of the suspects were citizens of Nigeria and Ghana residing in various U.S. cities. One of the suspects is listed as a U.S. citizen residing in Washington, D.C.

“The defendants created profiles using fictitious names, locations, and images which allowed them to cultivate relationships with the victims. To carry out the schemes alleged in the indictments, victims were often led to believe that the defendants were U.S. residents working abroad,” court documents state. “...At the early stages of the romance scams, defendants frequently requested relatively small gifts, such as gift cards and cell phones from their victims. As the relationships continued, they requested increasingly larger sums of money from their victims.”

During the course of the scams, the suspects allegedly opened bank accounts and laundered the scammed funds through those accounts, occasionally using “cryptocurrency and celebrity meet-and-greet scams to obtain money from their victims.”

Update from Omaha federal court hearing

During Wednesday’s federal court hearing in Omaha, it was disclosed that Union Omaha Head Coach Jay Mims will be the third-party custodian for Osumanu. That means the coach is vouching for his player: He will be responsible for making sure Osumanu goes to court when he’s supposed to and to know whether Osumanu violates any terms of his release. The court allows Osumanu to travel with the team — if he’s allowed to remain on the team.

But a Union Omaha spokesman said in an email Wednesday afternoon that Osumanu had been “removed from team activities pending further review.” The team posted a statement on the matter to its Facebook and Twitter accounts Wednesday morning:

Club statement:

Posted by Union Omaha on Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The judge told the coach that he could be held in contempt if Osumanu takes off and the coach doesn’t inform the court.

The federal judge did not order Osumanu to be detained, but he does have to surrender his passport, and cannot use the internet for romantic or financial purposes.

The government argued for detention Wednesday, saying Osumanu is a flight risk: “For someone not making any money in 2017-2018, he sent a large amount of his proceeds back to his country.”

The U.S. Attorney alleges he sent $43,000 to Ghana. He said he supports 10 family members there.

The player’s attorney said her client isn’t a danger and has no criminal record, and that these allegations are not of a violent nature.

The government alleges Osumanu scammed an Indiana woman out of more than $19,000 in 2017, saying it started out with him asking for educational payments, then evolved into a fake inheritance tax on $7.5 million in gold bars.

Calling romance scams from Ghana prolific, the government also alleges Osumanu had a role with a co-defendant accused of scamming $67,000 from a widow they met on an online dating website

Osumanu makes $1200 per month playing soccer.

NEED HELP? Anyone who thinks they might be the victim of a fraud scam, or may have been a potential target, is encouraged to report it to the FBI.

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