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Accused in scam targeting seniors to be extradited

Canadian justice officials have won a legal battle that gives an accused con artist a one-way ticket out of the country.

Lord Kofi Agyapong Mensah appeared in a Winnipeg courtroom Wednesday where he learned he would be extradited to the U.S. to face prosecution.

Mensah is a Canadian citizen who is charged with mail and wire fraud for allegedly being a key player in a U.S.-based criminal enterprise that bilked hundreds of vulnerable, mostly elderly victims out of at least $280 million

Mensah was fighting the extradition bid, claiming the case against him is weak and should be dismissed on the grounds he was used by his co-accused and was an unwitting dupe.

Queen's Bench Justice Lea Duval disagreed in her 14-page written decision. She said there is plenty of evidence to suggest Mensah knew exactly what was going on. The Crown argued he played an integral role in the criminal operation.

Mensah was arrested in Winnipeg in October 2012 after RCMP officers, working in conjunction with the FBI, tracked him to a home on Anderson Avenue near Salter Street. Police believe he had been living in the city for about five years while a fugitive.

Mensah did a stint at the remand centre but was released on bail with stringent conditions, including turning over his passport and being prohibited from leaving the city.

Nearly 200 suspects in Canada and the U.S. have been arrested since the Project Colt investigation began in 2004. Mensah allegedly worked for what police have dubbed the "Bellini organization."

The head of the group, John Bellini, has already pleaded guilty in the U.S. to wire fraud and received 87 months in prison as part of a deal with justice officials. In exchange, Bellini is giving evidence against others, including Mensah.

The group allegedly targeted more than 1,000 senior citizens in North America, calling them out of the blue with the story they'd just won the lottery or a major sweepstakes. They were prodded to send payments to cover taxes, insurance or other fees through MoneyGram and Western Union. One man lost more than $400,000.

A police affidavit obtained by the Free Press says Mensah worked out of an office in Montreal as one of the alleged pitchers of the scam. He and others would allegedly gather nightly at a restaurant Bellini owned, where they would "brag about their conquests."

www.mikeoncrime.com

Comments are not accepted on this story because they might prejudice a case before the courts.

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