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I have a friend who is an architect, and has been in Ghana…

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I have a friend...

I have a friend who is an architect, and has been in Ghana for the past 6 months because of phony fines and arrests they have placed on him. He was supposed to be done in September, but wasn't able to leave because they confiscated his passport. He was due to go back and finish out the contract in March, but after everything that's happened, he decided he didn't want to do it. He found someone to take over the contract, but he needed to pay them from part of what he was originally paid. He tried to leave on Saturday to fly back to the states and they arrested him at the airport. He's already paid a $12,000 fine, a $10,000 fine and various other ones for things he supposedly did. Is there any way to get him out of there? He's been bailed out of jail for now, but now they want $50,000 to give him back his passport. That can't be legal, can it? There's a lot more to this story, but I need to know where he can turn to get help?

Lawyer's Assistant: Has your friend talked to a Ghanaian lawyer about this?

No, he doesn't trust anyone there because of all of the fake charges they've brought against him.

Lawyer's Assistant: What steps has your friend taken so far?

He has been paying all of the fines they've demanded of him. They knew he got $500,000 payment for the first part of the contract. Ever since he got the payment, they've been shaking him down. His "arrests" are never filed with the police - no paperwork, nothing.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

Can the US embassy or the state department help?

Submitted: 3 months ago.Category: Legal
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Answered in 8 minutes by:
3/27/2018
Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago
Zoey, JD
Zoey, JD, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 31,378
Experience: Active member of the NYS bar since 1989
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Hi,

I'm Zoey.

I've reviewed your post. Please be patient as I may need to research for you, and it also takes time to compose and type a reply.

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Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

They could help him if he were real. However, frankly this has all the hallmarks of an internet romance scam, for which Ghana is world famous. It's called the Stranded Traveler and here's how it works:

You meet a guy on a social networking or dating site and he falls in love with you at first sight.

He talks love, marriage, future and forever, before you can even meet in person. He seems to be everything you always wanted in a man, and you can't believe your luck.

Typically, but not always, he claims to be a widower with a son or a daughter. He usually claims to have his own business, and most commonly is an engineer, a building contractor or an architect. In any event, he tells you that his job can involve foreign travel

And lo and behold, before he can finally meet you, he tells you he must go abroad on a work contract to a country which is neither his nor yours, most commonly somewhere in West Africa. Once there, he turns out to be the world's unluckiest guy. He has the first of a series of emergencies for which only your money will do. The excuses are all lies, designed only to part you with your money.

He has equipment failure, for example, or can't pay his workers, or he runs short of cash, or he's robbed and mugged and all of his identification is taken. And while any real business owner in this situation would have insurance, credit, and money he can access for contingencies like this, and while he'd have to have government contacts right where he is in order to be there in the first place and an embassy that exists for this very purpose, he tells you that you are the only one he can trust and his only hope. He may even send you a copy of his so-called multi-million dollar contract so that you think he's going to be good for the loan.

This scam can come complete with phony documents, phony customs workers, phony lawyers and more. Romance scammers are adept at photoshopping and they create a lot of forged documents. And you wind up laundering money so that it can be sent in untraceable ways to a common thief.

Scammers use phony names, phony addresses, computer app voips or disposable mobile phones with pay/per minutes, a fake profile and someone else's picture. People who run these con games are professional thieves. Every shred of identifying information you have on him will turn out to be inaccurate and any money you send him will be gone forever.

Scammers follow this script because it works, and if your situation conforms to the pattern he must be a scammer. There is no exception.

You need to cease contact with him and block him. Send him no money. If the authorities can find out who and where he really is, you can sue him for the return of your funds, but frankly, since whoever he is, he's in another country, your money may never be recovered.

However, report him to your police and online to the FBI at their Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov. The FBI collects scam data on that website and distributes it to law enforcement agencies all over the world who are cooperating to eliminate internet fraud. If they can find him, that's great. But if they can't, you are still the victim of a crime. That means you can write off your losses when you file your taxes for the 2018 tax year. Crime losses are deductible.

I know that you would rather believe him than me. So feel free to upload photos and documents he's sent you to this chat thread along with any other information that will help me check him out and prove what I'm saying. You can upload files by using the link that says +Add Files to the left of the Send button.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Oh I have thought this all along! This is someone my 71 year old widowed, handicapped mother is in a "relationship" with. I've searched and searched and cannot seem to find something on this guy. He has transferred large sums of money into her bank account, only to have her wire it to someone else because he can't get it if she doesn't send it straight to him. He claims he lives in the same town I do. And because my mom has begged me not to, I haven't gone over to the house he supposedly lives at and asked the people who really live there for proof that he is a scammer. I've been compiling information all along trying to figure out how to help her so she doesn't get in trouble. I've done image searches on his photos and haven't come up with anything either.
Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

Thank you. I have received the file but can't look into it right now. I am going to have to take a phone call with another customer first.

What did you use for the image searches? I'll be back to you as soon as I'm finished with the call.

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Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

"Bill's" address in Texas traces to a three bedroom private home. The present family in there is named Buchanan and the family has lived there since 2010. The phone number looks like a Dallas number but it's a VOIP put out by Neutral Tandem. The Ghana number is ***** valid, so it's probably a VOIP as well. VOIP stands for voice over internet protocol. These are apps like Skype or Google phone. There's no real phone anywhere. The call come through a computer which could be anywhere in the world.

A reverse search of the email address doesn't turn up anything. There is a Cintas Corporation based in Cincinnati, but they do not do land development. They sell work uniforms and products related to office safety.

I don't know what you've used to search his image. If you want me to look at photos or documents I will.

All you can do -- unless you want to take extreme remedies -- is to continue to amass as much material as you can find to convince your mother she's being defrauded. People in the throes of these romance scams can be in deep denial. Some will even alienate their actual friends and family in favor of the scammer and are in real danger of dissipating all of their remaining assets by wiring it off to thieves.

It doesn't sound as if that's happening yet with your mother. If she does continue to remain in denial and the family can't make her see reason, if she absolutely refuses to believe that she has been helping a scammer to launder money he's stealing and you get very concerned for her well-being, there are only a few options left, neither of which would be pleasant.

The first would be to contact Adult Protective Services. There are victims services counselors who are trained to work with people in her situation, and APS may know of them. The elderly are especially preyed upon when it comes to internet fraud, and they may have some local resources.

Failing that, ultimately, a family member could hire a lawyer, gain conservatorship and take control over her finances.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
I've only done a Google image search with these photos. Here are the photos I have of him. Do you think it would do any good to go to the address he claims he lives at and ask them if he does live there to prove to her it's a scam? I've been trying so hard to convince her it's all a scam. The money he is transferring to her account is coming from a Wells Fargo bank in his name because my mom had to go to the bank to withdrawal money at one point. She has already been blocked by MoneyGram and other money transfer companies because she kept trying to send money to Ghana, and thankfully, they wouldn't do it. Every time I think I've found something, she questions him, and he always has an answer. My father passed away 18 months ago, so she is a prime target for these romance scammers. Do you have any other suggestions to find out who this person is? He does have an accent, too. He claims it's from living in Germany for several years, which I don't believe either! Would a bank account number help? I imagine he has other people (women) doing the same thing for him and they are doing the same thing my mom is doing by transferring money all over the world.
Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

I got nowhere with the photos. Tineye.com sometimes reveals what Google doesn't and vice-versa. But I struck out with these on both sites.

There is nothing I can do with a bank account. That information would have to be subpoenaed as banks protect their account holders' privacy.

Scammers always have answers They are professional con artists The answers, like all of this arrest nonsense, are ridiculously convoluted, but they are always very dramatic and victims seem to believe them.

Yes, I'd go to the house and take your mother. He won't be there.

It is easier to find out who scammers aren't than who they are. However, the typical romance scammer in Ghana is a young black male in his late teens/early 20's. They work in teams and juggle multiple partners.

Scam brings in a huge amount of money into Ghana's economy which needs it badly. The police there are all too eager to look the other way, since the crimes are mostly against Westerners, and Ghana doesn't care about that. Romance scammers are to Ghana what superheros are to the US. I am not kidding.

There's a wonderful award-winning documentary on the scam business in Ghana. Perhaps your mother will benefit from it. If not, you may. Here's the link. It starts off slow for the first 5 minutes or so, but once it starts talking about romance scam, it's fascinating:

https://topdocumentaryfilms.com/sakawa-boys-internet-scamming-ghana/

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Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

Just checking in to see if you need more help or any clarification of my answer. If so, please reply here on this question thread.

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Customer reply replied 3 months ago
Well, I once again tried to tell my mom she's getting scammed and she turned on me. She said she wants nothing to do with me. So, I guess that didn't work.
Lawyer: Zoey, JD, Attorney replied 3 months ago

I'm sorry to hear that she's in that kind of denial. It's time to contemplate more harsh remedies if she's incapable of listening to reason and can't manage her own affairs.

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