9 August 2017

Liberia: U.S. Judge Links Govt to Jailed LFA VP Deals

In his ruling against former Liberia Football Association (LFA) Vice President, a U.S. Judge indicted the Liberian government of being connected to the shady deals Mr. Cassel Kuoh undertook to defraud his victims. Kuoh was sentenced for 87 months in connection with $9.5 million investment scheme of gold and diamonds.

"Kuoh was an extremely sophisticated fraudster who utilized Liberian government connections to help effectuate his fraud," said U.S. Attorney Rose while sentencing Kuoh.

Whether it is the entire government or the Ministry of Lands, Mines & Energy which overseas and regulates gold and diamond operations is what the Judge did not say.

Attorney Rose notes: "Many of his victims, who are located in our district and throughout the world, will never recover from the devastating financial losses wrought by Kuoh's fraudulent scheme. On behalf of those victims, we are delighted that Mr. Kuoh will be serving a significant sentence in the Federal Bureau of Prisons."

Then a popular figure in Monrovia, he was arrested last year in the US state of Charlotte, North Carolina, tried and convicted in connection with an investment fraud scheme involving gold and diamonds that defrauded victims of more than $9.5 million.

Western District of North Carolina. U.S. District Attorney Judge Robert J. Conrad, Jr. who presided over the sentencing hearing last weekend ordered Kuoh to pay $16.2 million as restitution.

Kuoh will also be subject to deportation proceedings upon the completion of his federal sentence. According to public records and statements made in open court, from June 2012 to December 2016, Kuoh orchestrated a fraudulent scheme involving the purchase, shipment and export of unrefined gold and rough diamonds allegedly located in Liberia.

Kuoh was a Liberian national who lived in Liberia and owned Phoenix Mining and Investment Group (Phoenix Mining), which purported to be in the precious metal and gemstone business.

According to court records, Kuoh convinced victims to invest with Phoenix Mining by promising, among other things, that their money would be used to purchase, ship, and transfer gold and diamonds from Liberia into the United States, to be refined or cut and sold for profit.

As part of the scheme, Kuoh and his co-conspirators invited victims to Africa to visit the mining operations, which had been set up by Kuoh to look legitimate and profitable, and to inspect the gold and diamonds, which Kuoh had borrowed from others.

While in Liberia, Kuoh and his co-conspirators also arranged meetings between potential victim investors and alleged custodians of gold.

In at least one instance, Kuoh set up armed personnel to deliver large quantities of gold bars for inspection by potential investors, which convinced multiple victims that Kuoh did in fact own large quantities of gold.

Kuoh also visited victims in the United States, bringing with him samples of gold to lull potential investors into believing that the gold and diamond import scheme was legitimate.

According to court records, once he received the funds from his victims for the purported purchase of gems and precious metals, Kuoh began to use stall tactics and to make up lies about the location and U.S. Customs status of the purported shipments of gold and diamonds.

For example, Kuoh created a website for a fake shipping company, McDan Shipping Company, Ltd., and provided victims with false tracking information, showing that the packages were purportedly proceeding to their final destination in the U.S. Kuoh and his co-conspirators updated the website with 'new' tracking information, which frequently showed that the packages were encountering problems and impediments along that way and required victims to pay additional fees, which increased the fraud proceeds for Kuoh and others.

These concocted problems included things such as airport storage fees, additional permits and certificates, and the need for additional official documents and stamps from Liberian officials.

Kuoh and his co-conspirators also provided victim investors with false, forged and fraudulent documents purported to be from various organizations in the U.S, Liberia and elsewhere.

Kuoh and others used the fraudulent documents to create the false impression that the Liberian government required additional monies be paid, before the necessary approvals were given to allow the shipment of the gold and diamonds to proceed.

According to court records, contrary to Kuoh's representations to his victims, the gold and diamonds never arrived in the United States, and were never held by U.S. Customs or any other agency.

In reality, Kuoh used the investors' money to fund his personal lifestyle, including to purchase a house in Harrisburg, North Carolina, and to pay for other expenditures.

On March 8, 2017, Kuoh pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

Kuoh's co-defendant, Emmanuel Tarr, 30, of Liberia, has also pleaded guilty to wire fraud conspiracy and is currently awaiting sentencing.

The investigation was led by ICE-HSI. Assistant United States Attorney Corey Ellis, of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.


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