Woodbridge, VA

Woodbridge man sentenced for million-dollar romance scheme targeting elderly

Watchful Eye
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A 40-year-old Woodbridge man received and laundered over $1 million through romance and investment schemes that largely targeted the elderly, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia (EDVA) announced Thursday after his sentencing.

Ishmael Kayede is a Ghana native who became a U.S. citizen in about 2015, and his work history includes employment with schools in Fairfax and Alexandria, federal court documents state.

From 2014 to 2019, Kayede worked with co-conspirators in Ghana who targeted victims in the U.S. primarily using online dating websites such as American Singles and match.com.

After befriending individuals met on those sites, the co-conspirators would make false representations about being in relationships, and sometimes, falsely promise opportunities to invest in gold, diamonds, and minerals. Then, the co-conspirators would convince their victims to send money to Kayede’s bank accounts, and Kayede would keep or spend a portion of the money and send the rest abroad, explains a statement that he signed, which was submitted by EDVA.

In one instance, one of the co-conspirators operated under the fake name Cuijper Drenth and claimed to be an investor in diamond fields. A woman, identified in court documents as Victim-1, was led to believe she was in a relationship with Drenth, the statement Kayede signed also explained.

In February 2019, that woman deposited $42,000 in a Navy Federal account belonging to Kayede. When the bank placed a hold on the money and questioned him, Kayede admitted he told bank investigators the money came from his 45-year-old aunt in Florida. Yet, Victim-1 was 73 and lived in Kentucky.

In another case, a woman identified in court documents as Victim-2 met a co-conspirator on match.com who was using the fake name Steve Albert Cirino. He claimed to be an Italian working in Africa and told Victim-2 his bank account got frozen. She sent him approximately $150,000 over several years making deposits into Kayede’s accounts. Kayede also personally received about $3,000 from this victim, took a portion, and sent the rest to Ghana, he acknowledged in the statement.

Kayede conceded that he facilitated monetary transactions totaling approximately $1.3 million.

This week, he was sentenced to 15 months in prison for conspiring to launder money.

Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice, said the sentencing announcement from EDVA.


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