LEHI, Utah (ABC4) – A former Utah Valley University (UVU) athlete has been indicted for conducting a fraud scheme through faking online romantic relationships.

A federal grand jury has indicted Ashraf Abudu, who was a former track and field sprinter during the 2020-21 season at UVU.

Abudu has been charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering offenses.

Court documents say Abudu and others successfully obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars through state unemployment benefits. Authorities say between January 2020 and March 2021, Abudu received about $275,000 in fraudulently obtained unemployment benefits. From Jan. 2020 through Sept. 2020, Abudu worked with others to commit mail and wire fraud, receiving $24,150 in unemployment benefits from the State of Arizona.

Officials say the suspects engaged in online romantic relationships, pretending to be women to catfish their victims. Most communication was done via social media messaging or text messaging.

The suspects then used the victims’ personal information and identities to apply for state benefits in New York, Arizona and elsewhere. Officials say the suspects asked the victims to mail the money to Abudu and his co-conspirators. When Abudu received the funds, he would keep a percentage and distribute the rest to his co-conspirators located in Ghana.

In one case, Abudu pretended to be a woman and sent images of a model found on social media to an unsuspecting victim. Abudu convinced the victim to purchase gift cards for him which he asked the victim to send pictures of. As their relationship deepened, the victim started transferring money to Abudu and others’ accounts.

Abudu is currently booked at the Weber County Jail.