Three Nigerians have been sentenced to 235 years in prison for their involvement in several international schemes‚ including romance scams‚ for as long as 16 years.
The trio were sentenced in Mississippi after an international policing effort nabbed 21 people‚ including a South African.
The operation involved the Hawks Electronic Crimes Unit‚ Interpol‚ and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.
The members of the syndicate were found guilty of offences involving mail fraud‚ wire fraud‚ identity theft‚ credit card fraud and theft of US government property.
The syndicate operated from South Africa since about 2001 and the suspects were extradited to the US in 2015.
It is believed that they may have stolen “tens of millions of dollars”‚ according to a press release issued by the US department of justice.
Olajidimeji Seun Ayelotan‚ 30‚ was sentenced to 95 years in prison; Rasaq Aderoju Raheem‚ 31‚ received 115 years‚ and Femi Alexander Mewase‚ 45‚ was sentenced to 25 years after a federal jury found them guilty on Thursday.
“To accomplish their fraud schemes‚ the conspirators recruited the assistance of US citizens via ‘romance scams’‚ in which the perpetrator would typically use a false identity on a dating website to establish a romantic relationship with an unsuspecting victim‚” read the statement.
“According to trial evidence and plea documents‚ once the perpetrator gained the victim’s trust and affection‚ the perpetrator would convince the victim to either send money or to help carry out fraud schemes.”
“For example‚ the defendants admitted that they used romance victims to launder money via Western Union and MoneyGram‚ to re-package and re-ship fraudulently obtained merchandise and to cash counterfeit checks.”