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Watertown man charged with running Ponzi scheme based on African sports investments that didn't exist

A Watertown man who once coached youth soccer in Brighton faces a federal wire-fraud charge following his arrest today for allegedly convincing several people, including a relative and a former college acquaintance, to keep giving him money for "guaranteed" but, in fact, non-existent, high-return investments in African soccer clubs.

At first, Adrian John Kawuba, 33, used money from later investments to repay the earlier ones, then just gave up in a flurry of e-mail and text apologies in which he complained of everything from the bank putting a hold on his account to him just getting laid up sick in bed, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case.

Kawuba, born in Uganda, promised short-term rewards of as much as 60% as he allegedly helped finance "short-term private financing solutions to soccer clubs for transfer market transactions and deals" in Africa, the affidavit states.

Kawuba managed to keep the scam going for more than three years, racking up at least $2 million from six different investors in the US, Canada and the United Kingdom. He used the money he didn't return on a series of luxury purchases - including clothing, shoes and jewelry in Boston and Miami - stays at hotels in Greece and Florida, a trip to Mexico and a $26,295.96 rental for a private plane trip to Miami, the affidavit states.

Based on my review of bank records, I have not identified any instances of any investment or financing activity consistent with KAWUBA’s representations to the Investors.

The affidavit highlights how Kawuba would allegedly use later investments to pay off earlier ones, including in one case in which he used one payment wired by his college acquaintance to repay an earlier investment by the man.

In 2020 alone, the affidavit states, Kawuba earned $1 million in 12 payments from the college acquaintance and two of that man's relatives, whom he had persuaded to join in. One payment, of $200,000 on April 26, 2021, came in particularly handy, the affidavit states. That day, Kawuba's bank account had a balance of -$145.85. He used it in part to pay off an investment of $80,000 the acquaintance had made just five days earlier, plus the $32,000 return - 40% - Kawuba had promised.

By 2022, the scam had begun to reach its inevitable conclusion, the affidavit states, detailing a series of text messages over several months between an investor living in the UK and Kawuba, including:

On or about May 19, 2022, Investor 6 communicated with KAWUBA by text message. In this exchange, KAWUBA stated: "Good morning [Investor 6]. Yes I can confirm that I'm transferring funds Monday. I've been so sick and in bed and I apologize[.]" When Investor 6 asked KAWUBA follow-up questions and received no immediate response, Investor 6 stated "Adrian – can you please respond? Getting concerned that you are leading me on again into believing that you are making the transfer and then on Monday you will come up with another excuse." KAWUBA replied: "[Investor 6] – I can confirm I'm sending your your money on Monday. My appointment is 3pm and will provide you with the Fedwire."

Kawuba never repaid Investor 6 anything, the affidavit states.

PDF icon Complete affidavit546.96 KB


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and wondered why he hadn't thought of this first.

Voting closed 3

Sounds like an open and shut case. Guilty of a classic Ponzi-type scheme.

Voting closed 4