2021 | Courts

Gaithersburg man pleads guilty to helping launder more than $6M in romance scheme

One victim cashed out 401(k), sent scammer more than $200K

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A Gaithersburg man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to helping launder more than $6 million from older people online, with perpetrators pretending they were in romantic relationships with the victims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Lesley Annor, 23, and others targeted the victims through social media, dating websites, email and other applications, according to a press release.

The perpetrators gained victims’ trust, then asked for money to be sent to bank accounts linked to Annor and his co-conspirators.

Annor and the other perpetrators laundered more than $6.2 million through 34 bank accounts at 11 financial institutions, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. More than $447,000 was deposited into bank accounts that Annor controlled.

The perpetrators would keep 10% of the money from a victim and send the rest to other conspirators overseas, according to the press release.

Annor’s attorney, G Arthur Robbins, could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Authorities said one victim — a man in his 50s — cashed out his 401(k) and sent more than $206,000 to help a scammer who pretended to be a woman in Germany.

The woman, who identified herself as “Anita” to the man, said she loved him and asked for money to help her gain an inheritance from the death of her parents. She told the man that she should send money to two people who were her grandfather’s accountants; they turned out to be co-conspirators.

The victim bought two cashier’s checks worth about $201,000 combined and mailed them to Annor’s home, according to the plea agreement. He deposited the money into three different accounts that the conspiracy members had opened.

Annor and his brother David, were arrested in November and charged with money laundering.

Lesley Annor will be sentenced Oct. 29 and faces up to 20 years in prison.

David Annor has a re-arraignment Aug. 10 in U.S. District Court in Maryland, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Marcia Murphy wrote in an email to Bethesda Beat.

Murphy did not think anyone else had been charged in the case.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com