Cameroonian Citizen Extradited from Romania to Face Covid-19-Related Fraud Charges | OPA

A citizen of Cameroon was extradited to the U.S. yesterday to face federal charges for his alleged involvement in a fraud scheme perpetrated against American consumers.

Desmond Fodje Bobga, 28, made his initial appearance in federal district court in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, today. He was extradited from Romania. Bobga is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, forging a seal of the U.S. Supreme Court, and aggravated identity theft.

According to the charges, from around June 2018 to around June 2020, Bobga knowingly conspired with others to offer puppies and other animals for sale on internet websites. He and others communicated by text message and email with potential victims to induce purchases. Following each purchase, Bobga and co-conspirators claimed that a transportation company would deliver the puppy or other animal and provided a false tracking number for the pet. Bobga and his co-conspirators, acting as the transportation company, then claimed the pet transport was delayed and that the victim needed to pay additional money for delivery of the pet.

Bobga and co-conspirators told some victims that they needed to pay more money for delivery because the pet had been exposed to the coronavirus. The perpetrators used false promises and bogus documents regarding shipping fees and coronavirus exposure to extract successive payments from victims. Among the fake documents were a “Refundable Crate and Vaccine Guarantee Document” that purported to have been issued by the “Supreme Court of the United States of America” and bore the seal of the Court, along with the signature of a Clerk of the Court. After Bobga and the co-conspirators received money directly and indirectly through wire communications from the victims, they never delivered the pets.

“The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting fraud schemes that take advantage of American consumers, including schemes that seek to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We are grateful to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Pennsylvania and to the FBI for their partnership on this matter, and we greatly appreciate the efforts of Romanian law enforcement.”

“From across the globe, Desmond Fodje Bobga and his co-conspirators callously exploited consumers who were seeking the companionship of a pet to alleviate the isolation and stress caused by the COVID pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Kaufman for the Western District of Pennsylvania. “Today he stands before the court in Pittsburgh to face justice.”

“Mr. Bobga created false websites to advertise puppies or other animals, communicated with customers in the U.S., obtained payment and then provided nothing in return,” said FBI Pittsburgh Acting Special Agent in Charge Carlton Peeples. “His extradition to Western Pennsylvania to face these accusations sends a message to others looking to exploit victims in the U.S. that the FBI will stop at nothing to find you and put a stop to these scams.”

The criminal charges detail the alleged dealings of Bobga and his co-conspirators with victims in Western Pennsylvania and elsewhere. For example:

  • One victim, of New Brighton, Pennsylvania, was seeking to purchase a mini-dachshund for her mother in mid-March of 2020. Victim 1 was induced to lose $9,100 due to false claims that the puppy was being shipped, needed insurance, and was exposed to COVID-19;
  • Another victim, of Fruitland, Iowa, was seeking to purchase a mini-dachshund for herself in mid-March of 2020. False claims induced Victim 2 to lose $1,840; and
  • A couple in Dallas, Texas, who were seeking to purchase a dog and lost $1,800, were induced to make successive payments based on claims about transportation issues and other matters.

The criminal charges include a reference to a website, lovelyhappypuppy.com, to which Bobga allegedly directed numerous victims to view puppies that he fraudulently claimed to sell:

The wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges provide for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Forging of seal provides for a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Aggravated identity theft provides for a mandatory two years in prison. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ira M. Karoll of the Western District of Pennsylvania and Wei Xiang of the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch.

The FBI Pittsburgh Field Office conducted the investigation leading to the charges in this case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance. Law enforcement authorities in Romania, including the Romanian National Police, Directorate for Combating Organized Crime and the Cluj Brigade for Combating Organized Crime, provided significant cooperation.

If you believe you are a victim in this case and would like to opt-in to receive notifications or if you have any questions about your rights, please contact the Victim Witness Coordinator at 412-894-7400 or through our website (https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/webform/contact-victim-witness-coordinator). 

For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

 

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