GAITHERSBURG, Md. — Two brothers from Gaithersburg, Maryland have been arrested on federal charges stemming from an alleged romance scam involving 200 victims worldwide.
David Annor, 27, and Lesley Annor, 22, were arrested on Nov. 16 and charged with money laundering, according to Robert Hur, the U.S. Attorney for Maryland. The criminal complaint alleges that the Annors, along with co-conspirators, were part of a romance scheme in which they connected with their victims online, typically through social media and dating websites, and convinced them to send money based on a misrepresentation that they were in a romantic relationship with the victim.
The co-conspirators would make contact with the victims, convince them they were in a romantic relationship and then request money, often reassuring the victim they would be repaid, and give details of where to send the money, which was typically an account controlled by the Annor brothers. The Annors are charged with receiving the funds and laundering more than $5 million from 200 victims dating back to April 2017.
David Annor registered a shell company in Maryland under the name Ravid Enterprise LLC, which he registered as "a car sale business where buyers come in to get cars which are from the auction.” His Gaithersburg apartment was listed as the address of the business. Between May 2017 and September 2020, the Annors opened 10 different bank accounts, including accounts opened in the name of Ravid Enterprise, which they used to receive and launder victim money.
The Annors would send portions of the victim money to their co-conspirators, some located in Ghana, and then keep at least 10% for themselves.
The victims were often elderly or isolated individuals who are most vulnerable to romance scams, and ranged in age from 38 to 83, according to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint. The eight victims mentioned in the criminal complaint each allegedly lost between $17,500 and $201,000.
"The criminal complaint charges that these defendants were part of a conspiracy that stole from many vulnerable and elderly victims from around the world, defrauding them through lies and laundering the funds internationally," Hur said in a statement. "The deceit used to steal from these victims was heartless."
One of the victims listed in the complaint was a 63-year-old Virginian woman, who said she connected with one of the co-conspirators online and 2018 and sent $177,000 to the scammers, and even liquidated some of her 401k account.
Thus far, the Annors have had initial appearances and detention hearings in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt and a judge ordered that they both be "detained pending trial." If convicted David and Lesley Annor could each spend 20 years in federal prison.
Hur's office worked in conjunction with the Washington, D.C. branches of the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Secret Service.
Authorities are asking anyone who believes they may be a victim of the Annor brothers, or any other romance scam, to report it to the Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311.