MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Ghana national pleaded not guilty in federal court Wednesday to stealing about $2.4 million from the Wisconsin Republican Party in a wire fraud scheme.
Paul Williams Anti, 59, was charged in February with embezzlement, online court records show.
According to court documents, scammers manipulated state GOP employees’ email accounts in October 202 to divert funds meant for vendors into the scammers’ bank accounts. Williams Anti allegedly controlled two of those accounts.
A cybersecurity firm that the state GOP hired to investigate found that an employee’s email account had been altered so that any message with the words “invoice,” “wire transfer” or “bank” would automatically move to an email folder the scammers could access.
The scammers then increased the amount charged as well as the payee account information, then sent the messages to another GOP employee. That worker unknowingly sent the money to fraudulent accounts, according to court records.
Court documents don’t name the state GOP as a victim. But a party spokesperson confirmed Wednesday to the Wisconsin State Journal that the party was involved.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security arrested Williams Anti in New York City in February. He had 30 identification documents under nine different names, Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith Duchemin said Wednesday.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Crocker ordered Williams Anti to remain in custody, calling him a flight risk. He noted that Williams Anti has family in Ghana and the United Kingdom.
“If I let him out, he’d be gone in 60 seconds,” Crocker said.
Williams Anti could face up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted.