PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Two men have been accused of participating in a scheme involving black construction paper they claimed was money that had been dyed after a Massachusetts auto body shop owner told authorities he was cheated out of $100,000.
An affidavit filed by Secret Service agent Jon H. Ringel shows authorities were contacted Oct. 11 by a Massachusetts man who said he was scammed after being courted by three men who claimed to be from Liberia.
The man told authorities he was approached at a
A week later, the Massachusetts man met Tomba at Opa Restaurant in Providence, where they discussed Liberia and black money, the affidavit said. The man said he later was introduced to another man, who called himself Tony and claimed he was a driver for the Liberian president.
The Massachusetts man said Tony used aluminum foil, vials of chemicals, rubber gloves, water and two blackish-purplish pieces of paper to show how a $100 bill could be made into two more $100 bills. He said he was promised $300,000 in exchange for $100,000, the affidavit said.
Investigators say con artists convince victims to pay for chemicals to wash bank note-sized paper they claim to be real currency dyed black to avoid detection by customs officials. In reality, except for a few genuine currency bills used to trap victims, the black money is usually construction paper.
The Massachusetts man said he withdrew $150,000 from his bank account and on Oct. 7 took $100,000 to the Providence Marriott Downtown hotel, where Tomba and Tony began to wash black money. He told investigators he thought the men put $150,000 in his safe.
Hours later, he said, he opened the safe and found the money was in fact a stack of black construction paper. He identified the con artists as Anthony Chadheen, of Providence, and another man, who has not been charged.
Chadheen and Alvin Pennue, of Indianapolis, are accused of trying to scam another person using the same scheme.
They were arrested on Friday in Providence after authorities set up a sting operation. Federal agents set up the sting after someone from Attleboro, Mass., contacted them about being solicited in a black money scheme by two men who claimed to be from Sierra Leone.
A U.S. magistrate judge on Monday set bail at $5,000 for Chadheen and ordered Pennue held without bail pending a future hearing.
Chadheen, 31, and Pennue, 33, are charged with passing a fictitious obligation of the United States, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison upon conviction. They have not entered pleas.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Terrence P. Donnelly described Chadheen as being unemployed, living in a Providence hotel and having a case pending before immigration officials. He said Massachusetts authorities arrested Chadheen in January on larceny charges after investigators said he bilked $90,000 using a similar scheme but the charges were dropped.
Chadheen's defense attorney Mary S. McElroy said he is married and has a baby due in January.
If Chadheen, who moved to the United States from Liberia 10 years ago, makes bail, he will be confined to his mother's Providence home and be subjected to electronic monitoring, authorities said.
A bail hearing for Pennue has not been scheduled.