Tech teaching assistant from Ghana faces fraud charge

AmponsahProsecutors say a Montana Tech teaching assistant was part of a fraudulent scheme to acquire big quantities of clothes from Joseph A. Bank, Lands’ End and other retailers and have them shipped to his home African country of Ghana.

Samuel Amponsah, 27, pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of deceptive practices Thursday before District Judge Kurt Krueger, who set the next hearing for Jan. 4. He planned to set another hearing on bail, which for now remains at $100,000.

Amponsah has been jailed since his arrest on Oct. 16. Prior to that, he was a graduate student in mining engineering at Tech, where he was also a teaching assistant, according to court records.

In October, police served a search warrant at a residence in the 1000 block of Missoula Street, where Amponsah was among four tenants. Police said they were investigating fraudulent credit card transactions or shipments of clothing.

When asked if he had any fraudulently purchased items, Amponsah reached into a dresser and pulled out some shirts from Lands’ End, according to the charging document.

During that and a separate search, police also found large quantities of new clothes from Joseph A. Bank Clothiers, Cole Haan, WeeJun and several other retailers. They also found four new cell phones in their original boxes.

Amponsah admitted that he was involved in fraudulent mail orders and had let a friend in Ghana have packages from retailers sent to his apartment, documents show. He said he then sent the items to Ghana where his friend was trying to open a boutique, prosecutors said.

Amponsah also told police that he had taken packages from porches of other residences on Missoula Street, according to prosecutors.

He said later that others had items sent to his apartment and were using credit card numbers they bought online, and he admitted making purchases with one card number himself.

Amponsah has retained Butte attorney Kevin Vainio, who asked that his client now be released on his own recognizance. Prosecutors opposed that so Krueger said he would set a separate hearing for that.

But the case could get more complicated.

On Nov. 17, the federal Department of Homeland Security served an “immigration detainer” requesting that Amponsah be held for an additional 48 hours after any form of release from the Butte jail.

The detainer says there is probable cause that Amponsah lacks immigration status. Vainio, in his bail-reduction motion, argues the ICE detainer lacks probable cause and says the state of Montana should ignore it to avoid violating his client's rights.


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