Catfishing CMS: 10 charged in $11.1M fraud

A group of 10 people are being charged with crimes related to wire fraud and money laundering schemes that drained $11.1 million from Medicare, state Medicaid programs, private health insurers and other victims, the Justice Department said Nov. 18.

Many of the defendants allegedly used stolen identities and shell companies to open bank accounts en route to receiving money diverted from federal and state healthcare programs, hospitals, private payers and individuals. They allegedly used spoofed email addresses, bank account takeovers and other methods to trick their victims into thinking they were making payments to legitimate entities, the Justice Department said.

As part of the scheme, some of the defendants allegedly targeted elderly people with romance fraud, a practice sometimes called "catfishing." The victims were defrauded of hundreds of thousands of dollars, the department said.

Biliamin Fagbewesa, 31, of Columbia, S.C.; Trion Thomas, 50, of Stone Mountain, Ga.; Malachi Mullings, 29, of Sandy Springs, Ga.; Adewale Adesanya, 39, of Jonesboro, Ga.; Sauveur Blanchard Jr., 49, of Richmond, Va.; Atlanta residents Patrick Ndong-Bike, 32, Desmond Nkwenya, 35, Cory Smith, 29, Chisom Okonkwo, 26, and Olugbenga Abu, 45, have all either pleaded guilty to, or were charged with, crimes related to the fraud, the Justice Department said.

Mr. Mullings allegedly used $260,000 from an elderly romance scam to buy a Ferrari.

Mr. Adesanya pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and use of a false passport on June 2, the Justice Department said. He was sentenced to four years in prison.

The other 9 defendants are awaiting trial.

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