Sunday, May 22, 2022

Former Utah Valley University athlete indicted in fraud scheme involving fake romantic relationships

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A Lehi athlete who competed at Utah Valley University was indicted for his involvement in a scheme in which he and others faked romantic interest in victims to get money.

Ashraf Abudu faces one federal mail fraud and wire fraud charge, along with one charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering for his alleged involvement in the operation.

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According to court documents, those involved in the scam would reach out through social media and pretend to be romantically interested in the victims or falsely claim to be members of the military. They would then use information gathered to apply for unemployment benefits in multiple states.

Abudu is accused of sending victims items through the mail to gain their trust.

FOX 13 spoke to Mike Clarke, a victim who got caught up in the scheme last spring when Abudu attempted to scam him.

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“I started getting messages from this person who identified themselves as Linda Jim,” said Clarke, who lives in Tampa.

He said over time, the person he was speaking with began asking for money.

“I sent two checks, one for $50 on one account and another for $25 on another account, and I thought you know, we will see what happens.”

Clarke added that the operators of the scheme tried to make things look real, but cracks started to appear.

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“They took a photograph of themselves holding the check, but, I could see when I got it that it was photoshopped,” Clarke remembered. “In other words, it was a picture of this woman, but with a strange looking hand holding one of my checks.”

That’s when Clarke reached out to officials with Utah Valley University.

The victims were directed to send the fraudulently obtained benefits to Abudu, who would deposit the money, keep a percentage, and send the rest to “coconspirators in Ghana through internet-based money transfer services,” the documents allege.

Between January 2020 and March 2021, Abudu received approximately $275,000 from victims.

The Utah Valley University athletic website currently lists Abudu as a redshirt freshman on the school’s track and field team. However, a school spokesperson told FOX 13 that Abudu was dropped from the team in Spring 2021 and is no longer enrolled at the school.

As for Clarke, said he’s just thankful that he didn’t lose any money.

“I’m happy that I had some small part in busting this guy.”

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