Seven men of Nigerian origin have been named and charged with conspiring to launder illegal proceeds from romance scam operations targeting multiple victims.
Although ten people were charged for the scam, only seven names, all of Nigerian origin, were listed by the Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S.
A few of the indicted persons are also citizens of the United States. Others are legal permanent residents.
Listed are Afeez Olajide Adebara, 34, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, U.S. citizen residing in Norman and Brooklyn, Joshua Nnandom Ditep, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman.
Paul Usoro, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Chibuzo Godwin Obiefuna Jr, 26, U.S. citizen residing in Norman and Long Beach, California, Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 23, citizen of Nigeria, residing in Norman and Tobiloba Kehinde, 27, citizen of Nigeria residing in Norman.
The three other anonymous suspects have their addresses in Brooklyn and Texas, according to the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
“These individuals used a conspiracy involving romance scams to prey on dozens of victims across the country, many of whom experienced significant financial loss,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the Oklahoma City Field Office.
“Today’s arrests demonstrate that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not allow criminals to defraud innocent Americans,” Godbold added.
The co-conspirators concealed romance scam operation proceeds by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that they opened using fraudulent forms of identification to hide their identities and the source of the funds, the news release states.
The court said, at the early stages of the “romance,” victims would receive requests for relatively small gifts, such as iTunes gift cards and cell phones.
As the relationships continued, the requests would develop into increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete overseas projects or to return to the United States.
The victims were directed by the online romance scammers to send funds to the defendants’ bank accounts, among other things, assuring the victims that they would allocate the money as needed.
The indictment alleges that, once the victims sent funds, the defendants funnelled the money to accounts that they operated.
These accounts were allegedly opened under various aliases in order to obscure the source of the fraudulently obtained funds.
In a further attempt to conceal the source of the money, the co-conspirators also purchased salvaged vehicles and car parts to export overseas, usually to Nigeria, the indictment alleges.
Investigators identified at least three victims of the alleged scams in Seminole, Florida, Centerville, Ohio, and Pryor, Oklahoma.
The US Department of Justice said the indictment is part of an ongoing national effort by the Department of Justice to address online fraud schemes often based out of Nigeria that target U.S. citizens.