ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal grand jury returned an indictment today charging a New York City man and woman with wire and mail fraud as part of a social media scheme that defrauded elderly victims out of over $660,000.
“The defendants allegedly impersonated military servicemembers, diplomats, and others to deprive elderly victims of their retirement savings,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “Working with our law enforcement partners, EDVA will aggressively pursue the perpetrators of scams that prey on vulnerable members of our communities.”
According to the indictment, from at least September 2019 through April 2021, Linda Mbimadong, 29, and Richard Broni, 31, along with other unnamed co-conspirators, targeted elderly victims on social media and email by impersonating romantic love interests, diplomats, military personnel, and more. The pair, and other co-conspirators, tricked victims into mailing them cashier’s checks, wiring funds, and sending Apple computer products and other items of value.
According to the indictment, Victim #1 was a 78-year-old man who lost $580,000 to the scheme. He had set up an iFlirt account, an online dating application, on his cell phone for the purpose of communicating with women. A member of the conspiracy began communicating with him on the app as part of the scheme to defraud, transitioning the conversations to Google Hangouts and text messages around September 2019. Victim #2 was a 74-year-old woman who lost approximately $80,000 to the scheme from her retirement savings. A member of the conspiracy contacted Victim #2 on Facebook and transitioned the conversation with her to email and text messages around March 2021.
Posing as a young widow who had inherited gold bars, or as a diplomat assisting people in dire straits overseas, Mbimadong, Broni, and other co-conspirators allegedly tricked elderly victims into sending the conspirators large sums of money. Victims were also allegedly directed to purchase brand new Apple MacBooks and mail them to a conspirator. Mbimadong and Broni allegedly received cashier’s checks and wires directly from victims, which they allegedly deposited and shared among the co-conspirators.
Mbimadong and Broni are charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Additionally, Mbimadong is charged with making false statements to law enforcement during the investigation. If convicted of the conspiracy or fraud charges, they both face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. If convicted of the false statement charge, Mbimadong faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and James A. Dawson, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell L. Carlberg and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Amelia Medina are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:21-cr-98.
An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.