A Cameroonian national was extradited from Romania to the United States on Tuesday on charges of alleged involvement in a fraud program targeting American consumers, including a Marion Center woman.
Desmond Fodje Bobga, 28, first appeared in a Pittsburgh district courtroom before Judge Maureen P. Kelly, who charged him with conspiracy on wire fraud, wire fraud, forgery of a US Supreme Court seal, and reinforced identity theft.
He was placed in the custody of the U.S. Marshal and asked to attend a preliminary investigation and hearing that was to be conducted by a videoconference in front of Kelly at 10:45 a.m. Monday
“The Justice Department is committed to tracking down fraud programs that exploit American consumers, including systems designed to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton of the Justice Department’s civil division. “We are grateful to the US Attorney General for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the FBI for their partnership on this matter and we appreciate the efforts of the Romanian law enforcement agency.”
According to a federal affidavit, from about June 2018 to about June 2020, Bobga knowingly partnered with others to offer puppies and other animals for sale on internet websites. Four residents of western Pennsylvania were victims, one each from Dallas, Texas and Fruitland, Iowa.
“Desmond Fodje Bobga and his co-conspirators from around the world persistently exploited consumers seeking the company of pet to help alleviate the isolation and stress caused by the COVID pandemic,” said Stephen R. Kaufman, acting US attorney at the western district.
Federal authorities said Bobga and others communicated with potential victims via text messages and email to initiate purchases. One of them concerned a woman from the Marion Center, also named victim 3 in the affidavit, who searched the Internet for a woo or teacup Chihuahua puppy in March 2019.
The federal affidavit said she agreed to buy the puppy for $ 600. On March 29, 2019, she sent a MoneyGram from Indiana to a person named John Jefferson with a destination in Maryland.
“After this payment, Victim-3 was contacted by email,” the affidavit said.
Federal prosecutors said Bobga and his co-conspirators, who act as the transportation company, claim that transportation of pets has been delayed and that the victim will have to pay extra money to have the pet delivered.
“That email claimed it was involved in the delivery of the Chihuahua and claimed it required an additional payment of $ 800 to ship their pup,” the federal affidavit continued.
The email allegedly came from United Petsafe Shippers and said that a box and vaccine were needed for the puppy – and it was attached to a “Refundable Box and Vaccine Guarantee Document” allegedly written by “William K. Suter” as clerk of the “Supreme Court of the United States of America. “
“Victim 3 was suspicious of this email and refused to send additional money,” the federal affidavit continued. Authorities said the woman never got her initial $ 600 back, nor was a dog extradited.
“Mr. Bobga created fake websites to advertise puppies or other animals, communicated with customers in the US, received payments and then did nothing,” said Carlton Peeples, FBI special agent in charge of Pittsburgh. “His extradition to West -Pennsylvania, to face these allegations, is sending a message to others who want to exploit victims in the US that the FBI will stop at nothing to find you and put an end to these scams. “
Other victims were made to pay $ 14,000, including $ 9,100 paid by a woman in New Brighton, Beaver County for a mini dash dog she believed she was buying for her mother.
The wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges provide for up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The forging of the seal provides for a prison sentence of a maximum of five years. Increased identity theft provides for a compulsory two-year prison sentence.