Woodbridge man steals $1.3 million from seniors with romance, investment fraud

A Woodbridge, Virginia, man was sentenced to 15 months in prison Thursday for scamming seniors with romance and investment fraud through dating sites, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Officials say Ishmael Kayede, 40, and his co-conspirators would gain the trust of his elderly victims through dating sites like match.com and then convince them to send money to his bank accounts before transmitting the funds to Ghana, according to a news release.

Kayede laundered funds from mail or wire fraud schemes with co-conspirators from 2014 to March 2019, using romance fraud, gold and diamond investment fraud and other fraud scams.

Romance fraud, or romance scams, are when scammers create fake dating profiles and strike up an online relationship in order to build the trust of someone and later “exploit that trust” and ask for money.

Kayede laundered about $1.3 million from the scheme, lying to bank officials about the source of the large funds he transferred into his accounts. The Justice Department said victims of the scheme lost thousands of dollars, and in some cases, more than $100,000 to Kayede.

The Justice Department highlighted how elder abuse, an act that harms or puts at risk older adults, affects at least 10% of older Americans every year.

It also outlined how financial fraud is one of the five types of elder abuse, which also include physical abuse, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse and sexual abuse.

“Together with our federal, state, local and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans,” the department wrote in the release.

Emily Venezky

Emily Venezky is a digital writer/editor at WTOP. Emily grew up listening to and reading local news in Los Angeles, and she’s excited to cover stories in her chosen home of the DMV. She recently graduated from The George Washington University, where she studied political science and journalism.

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