Milwaukee Journal Sentinel | If this were a joke, it might go something like, “How did the puppy pay for his new leash? With Dogecoin!”
But a Milwaukee-based puppy scam was real, according to federal prosecutors, and international fraudsters used other kinds of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin to try to launder at least $100,000 stolen from people who thought they were buying Havanese puppies from cassyhavanesebreeders.com. The small, bichon-type dog is the national dog of Cuba.
Milwaukee rapper Sona the Voice, 35, formerly known as Lionel Sona, and Blair Hudson, 26, of Waukesha, now face a federal indictment for eight counts of wire fraud in a scheme that included an unknown person in Cameroon.
According to federal court records:
One of the co-defendants, Hudson, was pulled over in Waukesha in March and charged with bail jumping, carrying a concealed weapon, possession of THC and driving on a suspended license.
Inside a black fanny pack on the back seat officers found $18,655 in cash. Hudson said it was to buy a couple of used cargo vans for a delivery business he was starting.
They also found three Chase debit cards in other people’s names in Hudson’s wallet. They had been closed by the bank on suspicion of fraud.
Hudson eventually told police he was sending money to someone named Scott in Africa via the accounts and Zelle, a digital payment network similar to PayPal or Venmo.
Information from Hudson’s phone led to several people who had sent money to a purported breeder of Havanese puppies named Cassy
But according to prosecutors, none of the customers ever got a dog, because there were no dogs and no Cassy the breeder.
One person told investigators Hudson had recruited him to open bank accounts to receive the payments, and that from November to this spring, about $10,000 flowed into the accounts every couple of days, which he would withdraw in cash and give to Hudson, who sent it to someone in Africa.
Hudson also dropped cash to Sona the Voice and Spora Sona at their apartment on Historic Mitchell Street.
Voice had two registered Wisconsin businesses, Cameroonremit and Ivy League Empire, and, since 2017, a Coinbase account through which cryptocurrency transactions were made to Voice, Sona and the companies. Several transactions included subject lines suggesting the money might be remittances to people in the West African nation of Cameroon.
In his 2009 video “It’s all about the Money,” Voice is wearing a tracksuit jacket that says CAMEROON on the back. According to music news articles, he was born in Cameroon and moved to the United States as a teen.
In all, more than $1.7 million U.S. dollars were deposited in Voice’s Coinbase account, according to court records.
Hudson and Voice were first arrested in June based on a criminal complaint from a U.S. Secret Service investigation. The new indictment lists eight unidentified victims who sent between $1,200 and $2,100 for dogs from December to March. It says the defendants obtained more than $100,000 via the scheme.
Sona, described as a co-conspirator in the June complaint, is not charged in Tuesday’s indictment.
Voice and Hudson are scheduled for a virtual preliminary hearing in federal court on Friday.