A Massachusetts man admitted his role in more than $600,000 in fraud schemes aimed at elderly victims, federal prosecutors said.
Austin Nedved, 29, of Northborough, pleaded guilty Thursday to aiding and abetting wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy, the U.S. attorney's office said.
Nedved admitted that he bought and sold digital currencies, including Bitcoin, for cash, advertising his services on two online businesses. For at least two years, he aided and abetted romance schemes in which victims are targeted to send money abroad to people they think to be romantic interests and lottery schemes in which victims believe they can obtain lottery winnings or government grants by forwarding cash for fees and expenses to fraudsters, prosecutors said.
In one case in late 2017, an individual posing as “Jonathan G” led a 78-year old victim to believe over social media that he was a Weston businessman who owned an oil company. Without meeting him, the victim agreed to marry him, prosecutors said. “Jonathan G.” then told the victim that he needed money to settle obligations over an oil company accident abroad in which people had died and that he couldn't return to the United States to marry the victim until he did, the U.S. attorneys office said. “Jonathan G.” told the victim to pay him in Bitcoin.
The victim contacted Nedved and gave him a check in a Kittery, Maine, parking lot on June 25, 2018, to buy approximately $100,000 in Bitcoin. Nedved released about $100,000 in Bitcoin, minus his commission to a Bitcoin wallet controlled by “Jonathan G," prosecutors said.
“In total, Nedved and co-conspirators, in exchange for payment, converted to Bitcoin more than $630,000 in cash that they received from others, knowing that the cash constituted proceeds of romance and lottery scams and other unlawful activities. They then either returned the proceeds in Bitcoin to the source of the cash or forwarded the Bitcoin proceeds to unidentified third parties," the U.S. attorneys office said.
Nedved is in custody in Kentucky serving a sentence for a separate fraud conviction. A lawyer representing him could not be found. He is scheduled to be sentenced in April.