Exactly a year after Cassell Anthony Kuoh, the former vice president for operations of the Liberia Football Association (LFA), pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Caroline in connection with an investment fraud scheme involving gold and diamonds that defrauded victims of more than US$9.5 million, the US government has resolved to request the Liberian government to freeze the bank accounts and confiscate Kuoh’s residence on the Roberts International Airport Highway.
On March 8, 2017, Kuoh pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and subsequently on August 2, 2017, he was later sentenced to 87 months in prison in the U.S. and ordered to pay $16.2 million as restitution in line with his punishment. Kuoh would also be subjected to deportation proceedings upon the completion of his 87 months sentence.
Prior to his arrest and subsequent confession, Kuoh owned Phoenix Mining and Investment Group/Phoenix Mining, which purported to be in the precious metal and gemstone business in Liberia.
The question that remains is, would the freezing of Kuoh’s bank accounts and confiscation of his residence be enough to restitute the US$16.2 million?
The case grew out of the Government of Liberia’s request to Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice, a copy of which is with the Daily Observer, claiming that they are a recipient of a request for legal assistance from the U.S. Government through its Embassy in Liberia informing them that Kuoh and his co-defendant Emmanuel Tarr were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the sale of diamond and gold from Liberia, a charge to which they have pled guilty.
“We asked the court to ensure that all banking accounts of Kuoh between 2014 up to and including 2016, and current accounts’ balances be ordered submitted,” the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said in their application for a freezing and confiscation order.
The Liberian government claimed that Kuoh, between August 21, 2014, up to and including September 3, 2014, instructed one of his victims, only identified as D.S., to wire at least US$250,000 from a Wells Fargo Bank account to an account at Global Bank Liberia Limited in the name of McDan Shipping Company Limited.
Further, the MoJ alleged that from September of 2014, up to and including June 2015, Kuoh again instructed another victim, with initial identification as D.S. V.S. and R.C., to wire at least US$1,972, 000 from a U.S. Bank account to Ecobank-Liberia Limited in the name of Phoenix Mining and Investment Company.
Again, on September 2014, Kuoh also directed D.S. and V.S. to wire approximately US$2, 139,770 to two conspirators’ Bank of America in the names of Charles G. Kuoh and Woodrow Mentar, Jr.
Later, the document alleges that after those transfers from March 2015 to August 2015, the conspirators’ bank wired a total of US$553,500 from the two U.S. bank accounts to an account at the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) in the name of Phoenix Mining and Investment Company.
Again the record claimed that in October and November 2016, Kuoh instructed another victim, identified as V.S., to wire US$271,000 from Sun Trust Bank account to Afriland First Bank Liberia Limited in the name of Phoenix Mining and Investment Company.
The case grew when the U.S. Courts said that public records and statements made in open court from June 2012 to December 2016, showed that Kuoh orchestrated a fraudulent scheme involving the purchase, shipment and export of unrefined gold and rough diamonds allegedly located in Liberia.
The records claimed that Kuoh convinced victims to invest with Phoenix Mining by promising that their money would be used to purchase, ship, and transfer gold and diamonds from Liberia into the U.S. 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 that he 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 he did in fact own large quantities of gold, according to the document.
Kuoh also visited victims in the U.S., 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.
He also 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 him and others.
He 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.
He 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 U.S. 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 purchasing a house in Harrisburg, North Carolina, and to pay for other expenditures.