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How a 77-year-old man who has investigated fraud for the US government lost $600,000 in a romance fraud from Ghana

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He was a former Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Agency for International Development who had received awards for identifying waste, fraud and abuse in the government.

By 2019, he was 77, retired and living in Annandale, Va. He had dreams of moving to a beach where he could spoil his grandchildren. Then he connected on a dating app with someone he believed was a widow in her 30s. A year later, he had lost over $600,000 to a Ghana-based ring of scammers, his retirement account was drained and he was left “financially decimated,” his son wrote in a court filing.

“It did not matter when [he] revealed that his credit was ruined, that he could not afford to pay for medical insurance, his bills, or even his medications,” the man’s son wrote. He said the scammers “took advantage of an elderly man with declining physical and mental health, showing no remorse in trying to extract the maximum amount possible for him at every turn.”

Linda Mbimadong and Richard Broni were sentenced in Alexandria federal court Friday to 36 months and 19 months in prison, respectively, for laundering money for the scammers in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.

“This was really an ageless, classic confidence game that has played out over modern social media,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Russell Carlberg said in court.

Prosecutors said Mbimadong and Broni were small players in a large operation that used a variety of tricks, including promised romances, to prey on vulnerable, older Americans. The scheme was sophisticated enough that it included fake online biographies for the participants, who posed as lawyers, accountants, diplomats and other successful people who had gotten into sudden financial trouble. Other scammers would post as lawyers or financial planners to add legitimacy to the requests. They would press victims for personal information and then use those details to exploit them.

Prosecutors have identified two dozen victims of the conspiracy. Nationwide, the Federal Trade Commission says, reports of romance-related scams have been rising exponentially, from $87 million in losses in 2017 to $547 million last year.

What’s “particularly deplorable,” Carlberg said, is that the scammers pressed for “everything these people have,” persuading them to drain retirement accounts and take out loans on their homes and cars. When they ran out of money, Carlberg said, they sometimes stole the victims’ identities to open new credit card accounts or to create new fake online dating profiles.

While the two defendants were not involved in those deceptions, they accepted some of the profits and provided a conduit to co-conspirators overseas.

 

The Annandale man told the scammers he was so depressed that he was considering suicide, the son wrote, but they continued to coerce him into sending more money. Along with over $400,000 in cash, he spent $200,000 on Apple products for the conspirators that prosecutors say were sold in Ghana. He has since been diagnosed with dementia.

The victim’s children contacted law enforcement in April 2020, starting the investigation that led to the convictions of Broni and Mbimadong.

Judge T.S. Ellis said the sentences would have been much harsher if not for their cooperation in identifying the perpetrators of the scheme, who he expressed hope would be arrested “promptly.” Broni and Mbimadong took about 10 percent of the proceeds in exchange for moving money and products from the victims to the ringleaders.
“I was surprised at how many [victims] there were,” the Annandale victim, who asked not to be identified by name, said outside federal court in Alexandria on Friday. Another victim, according to court records, is a professional psychologist.

“I was played as an openhearted idiot, and that’s what I became,” wrote another victim, who lost her retirement savings to a man she thought was a doctor working in Afghanistan. “This has been a terrible way to learn not to trust.”

Through tears, Mbimadong told the judge that while she knew she was involved in fraud, she was unaware the violations were so cruelly intimate.

“I did not know a lot of what was going on,” she said. “I just looked the other way.” She has agreed to pay $1.3 million to the victims. Broni, who was less culpable, will pay $87,000.

Broni and Mbimadong live in New York and had been romantically involved. Neither had any criminal record; Mbimadong has a master’s degree in public health and was pursuing a PhD at Rutgers University.
“She could have pursued a different course in life,” the Annandale victim said, “instead of defrauding people.”

Culled from The Washington Post

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South African Film, ‘Two Hues’ selected for Cannes NEXT

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South African filmmaker and actor, Weaam Williams will pitch her up-coming feature film, Two Hues at NEXT, Marche du Film, Festival De Cannes.

 

The screenplay is funded by the National Film and Video Foundation of South Africa, and has been selected to participate at Marche du Film with the Swiss tech company, largo.ai.

 

Two Hues is a high concept, fiction feature film about a woman who suffers from bi-polar disorder and is a silent victim of sexual assault. The title refers to her two opposite moods portrayed via colour, red and blue.

 

The proof of concept short film, garnered several awards on the 2021 festival circuit, including Best Women Empowerment Film at Berlin Short Film Festival and Best Lead Actress at West Europe International Film Festival.

 

Williams will pitch the project, as a part of the largo NEXT selection, to an audience of financiers, studio representatives and distributors on the 20th May 2022 at The Main Stage, Riviera – Festival De Canes.

 

“I feel that the return of film festivals will encourage a return to the cinema, and this is a very exciting prospect after the hard lock-down. I am very happy to participate at Marche du Film this year, and will promote Two Hues and the rest of the Tribal Alchemy catalogue, as well as meet with co-producers interested in working in South Africa,” expresses Williams.

 

South African producer, Kethiwe Ngcobo, from Fuzebox Entertainment, is a co-producer on this project. She has many years of experience as the Head of Drama at the South African national broadcaster, as well as three feature films under her belt.

 

 

“I am privileged to be working with Weaam, her creativity extends to writing, acting and directing. I am very happy to be a part of the project as Weaam is such a committed filmmaker,” says co-producer Kethiwe Ngcobo.

 

Two Hues feature film script is complete and has generated impressive box office statistics, in proportion to its budget, country of origin and cast. Weaam is set to continue to play the lead for the feature film, however, the director for the project is to be confirmed.

Investment company “i-cubed capital” is the first company to support the production of what is forecasted to be a box-office success. 

“We are pleased and honoured to participate as investors in Two Hues. Our investment in Two Hues highlights our support for local film production, gender equality, anti-racism and anti-violence. I-cubed Consulting believes that the film once completed and screened will have a positive social impact on society,” says Ismail Kajee, Founding Partner at i-Cubed Capital. 

 

Two Hues is currently in development, and Tribal Alchemy Productions will continue fund-raising for the next 12 months.

 

The indie short was produced with a shoe-string budget and managed to receive a few accolades and good audience interaction across the world.

 

“The feature is more ambitious and I am optimistic about the impact it will have on the South African film landscape and tech space, as well as its universal message against gender based violence and exclusion of cultural minorities,” says Williams.

 

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Grammy-Winning Artist Leon Thomas Reveals New Single & Music Video “X-Rated”

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Leon Thomas

Entering what promises to be a massive era, GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer Leon Thomas unveils a new single and music video entitled “X-Rated” [feat. Benny The Butcher] today. Listen to it HERE, and watch the music video HERE.

 

The single marks Leon’s debut music under multiplatinum artist, singer, songwriter, producer Ty Dolla $ign’s newly inked EZMNY Records, a joint label venture with Motown Records. Ty shares his excitement, stating, “Leon’s talent was just a higher level from every other singer or producer that I was hearing, and the fact that he was doing everything himself from playing bass to working Logic and Pro Tools. From the first song I heard, I knew he was one of them ones.”

 

On Leon’s “X-Rated” track, a glitchy beat holds down the groove beneath warbling loops, building a layered soundscape evocative of nineties hip-hop. His vocals glide over this backdrop as he celebrates female sexual freedom in the verses before a chantable chorus, “X-Rated girl, if these walls could talk.” Meanwhile, Griselda spitter Benny The Butcher pulls up with a fiery feature. The strikingly cinematic visual, which Thomas directed, captures these vibes on-screen and includes a cameo appearance from Ty Dolla $ign.

 

Speaking on the inspiration behind the song, Leon shares, “X-Rated is an ode to my love of “Boom Bap” and early 90’s instrumentals. Benny The Butcher brought authentic bars and helped further the theme of this record.”

 

A prolific songwriter and producer, Leon’s unique sound and writing wizardry can be found up and down the Billboard charts. He’s contributed to anthems for everyone from Toni Braxton and Babyface –winning a Grammy for his writing credits on the duo’s 2014 joint album Love, Marriage & Divorce—to Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Chris Brown, Kehlani, J. Cole, Rick Ross, Ella Mai, and more. As a co-writer and co-producer, he recently powered “Pipe Down,” “Love All” [feat. JAY-Z], and “In the Bible” [feat. Lil Durk & Giveon] from Drake’s global chart-topping Certified Lover Boy album.

 

Also, a true vocalist and artist in his own right, Leon unveiled his debut EP Genesis in 2018, which garnered tens of millions of streams and earned him critical acclaim. He continues to be a musical force of nature with the release of “X-Rated” and a highly anticipated project due out soon. Be on the lookout for more from Leon!

From writing and producing on #1 albums with chart-breaking artists to starring on hit television series, GRAMMY® Award-winning singer, songwriter, producer, and actor Leon Thomas has become one of the most watched multi-hyphenate talents in the entertainment industry today. He has written and produced with the likes of Post Malone, Ariana Grande, Kehlani, J. Cole, Rick Ross, and more, and won a Grammy for writing credits on Babyface and Toni Braxton’s 2014 joint album Love, Marriage & Divorce. In 2021, Leon found himself contributing his writing and production skills to Drake’s global chart-topping album Certified Lover Boy on “Pipe Down,” “Love All” feat. JAY-Z, and “In the Bible” feat. Lil Durk and Giveon. Born in Brooklyn and raised by his vocalist mother, opera-singing grandfather, and stepfather who played guitar for B.B. King, Thomas’ musical career began early. He appeared as Young Simba on Broadway’s The Lion King at 10 years old and began working with Nickelodeon at 13, voicing The Backyardigans character Tyrone and starring in Victorious for the show’s entire run. In 2018, Leon released his debut EP Genesis to critical acclaim. He continues to expand his artistry and venture into a new era of music under Ty Dolla $ign’s EZMNY Records and Motown Records, with the release of “X-Rated” feat. Benny The Butcher and a full project due out soon.

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Quavo x Takeoff Present New Single & Music Video “Hotel Lobby”

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Quavo

Over the years, Quavo and Takeoff have gone wild once or twice. However, they go wilder than ever on their new single and music video “Hotel Lobby”—available today via Quality Control Music Group/Motown Records.  Quavo and Takeoff reveal a woozy and wobbly banger on a whole different level..

 

Listen to “Hotel Lobby” HERE and watch the music video for “Hotel Lobby” HERE.

 

The airy cinematic production and ominous beat set the tone as Quavo and Takeoff trade one intoxicating bar after another. Co-directed by Keemotion and Quavo, the music video serves as an insane homage to the cult classic Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas directed by Terry Gilliam and co-starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro. In the clip, Quavo and Takeoff assume the roles of Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo cruising through the desert with a “mobile pharmacy” before pulling up to a Las Vegas hotel and barely passing the doors to check in. All kinds of psychedelic, tripped-out trap madness follows as they deliver the South’s first proper hip-hop homage to the late Hunter S. Thompson. It’s unlike anything either of these two multiplatinum GRAMMY® Award-nominated superstars have done either solo or as part of Migos!

 

It also paves the way for more music to come.

 

Takeoff recently dropped off “Crypto” with Rich The Kid. It has already amassed over 6.5 million Spotify streams and 4.7 million YouTube views on the music video. Receiving critical acclaim, HYPEBEAST proclaimed, “the new single sees the Migos rapper embrace his love for cryptocurrency and the fortune that it has brought him.”

 

Meanwhile, Quavo served up the intense “Shooters Inside My Crib.” It posted up 6 million Spotify streams and 6.6 million YouTube views on the music video. Touted among the “Soundsystem 50,” High Snobiety observed, “Quavo skates over the Ayo-B-produced beat effortlessly teasing us about an upcoming project.” REVOLT added, “‘Shooters Inside My Crib’ sees the North Atlanta star harmonizing about past struggles and current successes.” Sports Illustrated summed it up best as “an absolute banger.” Not to mention, he joined NBA2K22 as a playable character and will star in a new action thriller Takeover.

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Stunna 4 Vegas Drops New Album “Rae Rae’s Son”

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After releasing a barrage of fiery singles, burgeoning star Stunna 4 Vegas’ (Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment / Interscope Records) unveils his blistering new album Rae Rae’s Son. The 12-track effort is a slam-dunk for Stunna enthusiasts who crave his high-octane energy and robust swagger. Fans who reveled at Stunna’s previous records “BMF,” Ice Wear Vezzo, and “Pay Me To Speak” will love the album’s latest record, “Sad Song,” featuring Spinnabenz. Listen HERE.
To celebrate the release of his new album, Stunna will perform three concerts including performances in Charlotte (May 21), Dallas (May 29) and Billings (June 9). YRB Teez and SSG Splurge will accompany the Billion Dollar Baby star on his trek. Fans can purchase tickets HERE.
Since he joined Billion Dollar Baby and Interscope in 2019, Stunna 4 Vegas has emerged into one of the roster’s most promising talents, with over 816 million streams in the U.S. alone. His frenetic energy and ear for top-tier street anthems launched the run of success that began with his Big 4X mixtape release that cracked the top 50 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Results only improved with the January 2020 release of his debut album, Rich Youngin, which shot into the top 30 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and the top 20 of the Rap Albums list on the heels of hits such as “DO DAT,” featuring DaBaby and Lil Baby and “Up the Smoke” with Offset. His credentials only grew with a heavy touring lineup in 2021, including featured performer slots at Rolling Loud, Made in America, and OVO Fest and headlining his national tour.
 
Rae Rae’s Son Track List
  1. Rae Rae’s Intro
  2. The One
  3. Pay Me To Speak
  4. BMF ft. Ice Wear Vezzo
  5. Going For Nun
  6. Suspect
  7. Activated
  8. Sticks
  9. Fye ft. YRB Tezz
  10. Skurrt
  11. Sad Song ft. Spinnabenz
Stunna 4 Vegas Rae Rae’s Son eAlbum
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Farruko Releases Powerfully Impacting Summer Anthem “Nazareno”

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As one of the music industry’s most prominent figures, Farruko, continues to create music that is relevant and impactful – something that is showcased with his latest song “Nazareno.” The song and its official video are available for streaming on all digital platforms today.

Throughout his remarkable and renowned musical career, the Puerto Rican urban music legend is once again proving that he is one of the most versatile artists of his generation by creating music that is not only in tune with current industry trends but also in line with his beliefs and positive messaging. His latest track, “Nazareno,” features Farruko’s signature style of using cutting edge rhythms and beats to produce something that will have everyone up off their seats and dancing throughout the summer. The lyrics of the song weave a story of someone who was being washed over by an external tide of undesired influences while longing for something better.

The video, which was directed by Mike Ho and produced by Cinema Giants, shows Farruko at a club surrounded by people who are in the throes of partying. The Puerto Rican rapper can be seen dressed in all white, a symbolic show of purity, while everyone around him is dressed in dark colors. The video was executive produced by Raul Celaya and Jessy Terrero.

“Wow. Nazareno. What a video. When me and Farruko spoke, we talked about doing something special for Nazareno. Something that would shock the world. Something that would touch people…but not the ones that are reachable. We wanted to reach the ones that the church doesn’t go for. This is going in and showing the TRUTH of what living in sin is to save the ones that need to be saved. That’s what Farruko wanted to do with this video.” comments Mike Ho.

In April, the critically acclaimed performer released his song “My Lova,” which focuses on the painful emptiness one feels when the most important person in one’s life is no longer around them and how walking that path can feel solitary. Since its release, the song has accrued over 3.36 million views on Youtube and over 3.29 million combined streams. Farruko first premiered the song on the Latin American Music Awards stage and later in the telecast joined an ensemble of over 30 artists including the Black Eyed Peas, Ozuna, Prince Royce and more for a special performance of “Where Is The Love” in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

At the beginning of 2022, the multi-award-winning singer-songwriter took the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Latin Airplay Chart with his song “El Incomprendido” featuring Victor Cardenas and DJ Adoni off of his LA 167 album. The song has garnered over 56.6 million YouTube views and over 118 million combined global streams.

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ELI DERBY and 6LACK Star in “Lately” Music Video

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PG County, Maryland artist Eli Derby has been joined by label mate and R&B savant 6lack on the official music video for track “Lately.” The song is off Eli’s current release, his debut EP Left on Read. Set in Los Angeles, CA the “Lately” music video is a stunning vignette of heartbreak and moody tension that matches the energy of the R&B earworm. Listen Here: https://eliderby.lnk.to/LeftOnRead

Hailing from PG County, Maryland and now based in Atlanta, GA, Eli Derby released his debut EP, Left On Read, last month. The five-track R&B project expertly showcases Eli’s prowess for addictive melodies and relatable songwriting. Eli wanted to reflect on the nature of how his generation of peers (Gen Z) often find solace on social media and yet struggle to actually communicate true feelings… leaving each other on “read.”

The 18 year old broke onto the scene last Fall with debut single “Gaslight.” The song received high acclaim from the likes of Complex, Billboard Uproxx, Okayplayer, VIBE (“…a catchy vibe”) — all praising the track as one of the week’s best R&B releases. Signed to LVRN (home to 6lack and Summer Walker and more), Eli has been busy gaining experience on the live arena performing sessions and sets across the DMV and South (watch his acoustic performance of “Gaslight” here) and ready to release more music in 2022 off the back of Left on Read.

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