U.S. Court Jails Nigerian For $2.5m Romance Scam
A United States court in the Northern District of Oklahoma on Friday sentenced a Nigerian, Afeez Adebara, to four years in prison.
Adebara bagged the jail term for managing a group of money launderers in an online romance scam that defrauded multiple victims, including elderly individuals across the U.S., and caused losses of at least $2.5 million.
According to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering on November 3, 2020.
Court documents and testimony revealed that between 2017 and November 2019, the 36-year-old and his co-conspirators knowingly concealed the proceeds of a romance scam operation by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that were opened under various aliases, using fake passports and other fraudulent identification documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of his accomplices.
He was said to have taken further steps to conceal the source of the funds, took a commission for himself, and sent the remainder of the funds back to the online romance scammers in Nigeria, including in the form of vehicles and vehicle parts.
“Adebara coordinated with overseas co-conspirators who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms to defraud victims,” said the statement. “Adebara opened multiple accounts using fraudulent identities, then provided the account and routing numbers to the overseas co-conspirators. The overseas co-conspirators told victims that they were U.S. residents working or traveling abroad.
“As the online relationships continued, the overseas co-conspirators requested increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete business projects or for them to return to the United States.
“The victims were directed by the overseas co-conspirators to send funds to certain bank accounts, with an assurance that the money would purportedly be allocated as needed.”
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Clinton J. Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma, and Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI-Oklahoma City Field Office made the announcement.
FBI’s Field Office in Oklahoma City conducted the investigation with assistance from the agency’s San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York Field Offices.
Trial Attorneys Babasijibomi Moore of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nassar of the Northern District of Oklahoma prosecuted the case.
“This case is part of an ongoing national effort by the Department of Justice to address online fraud schemes, including those based out of Nigeria, that target U.S. citizens and residents,” the statement added.