Two Houstonians have been sentenced in an Oklahoma federal court for their roles in an elaborate — not to mention sort of creepy — online dating scam that defrauded multiple victims out of nearly $5 million.
Ken Ejimofor Ezeah, 35, and Akunna Baiyina Ejiofor were sentenced to 11 and seven years, respectively. (Ezeah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in February, while a jury found Ejiofor guilty on 18 counts of wire fraud and “aggravated identity theft” in March.)
Posing on ChristianMingle.com and Match.com as a British financial adviser named Edward Duffey, the convicted couple conned an Oklahoma City woman into giving them $1 million to invest, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit.
Sometime after March 2015, “Duffey” told the woman “he was friends with Mary Jo White…the head of Securities and Exchange Commission….[The woman] subsequently received a telephone call from a woman purporting to be White,” the affidavit states.
The woman made two $500,000 transfers to a London bank account and never heard from “Duffey” again.
Versions of the scam played out with other women in multiple states, including a Fairview, Texas, woman who was bilked for $300,000; and a South Carolina woman “who liquidated her $800,000 investment account at Morgan Stanley” and ultimately wired $345,0000 to “Duffey’s” London bank account.
To keep up appearances, “Duffey” sent flowers to the victims, including a special education teacher who was solicited by “Duffey” on Match.com in spring 2015. After only “a short period of time,” the Houston-area woman received a birthday bouquet of flowers, “which were delivered at nearly midnight…which frightened [the woman].”
Then, because they apparently weren’t being mean enough, the couple targeted a Colorado widow on Zoosk.com.
Per the affidavit, “Within a week of coming in contact, Duffey expressed his joy to [the woman] of the great connection he believed they shared.” Speaking with a thick British accent, he claimed to be wealthy, with homes “in Switzerland and Florida, as well as private jets.” He claimed to be from Manchester, England.
The couple switched things up with a Detroit-area woman, with the Duffey persona this time claiming to be “a retired pilot and current Sunday school teacher” from Fort Worth.
For a Tampa woman targeted on Twoo.com, the couple used the name “John Alex Cole,” claiming that Cole taught at an orphanage in Kuwait.
After these and other victims reported the con to federal agents, the Oklahoma City division of the FBI conducted a cell tower analysis on one of “Duffey’s” numbers, tracing it to Ejiofor’s and Ezeah’s apartments in west Houston.
Ezeah testified that Ejiofor told at least one victim that she was “Duffey’s” daughter, Heather, according to court records. A daughter persona was preferable to a son because “the female usually brings a female perspective to the scheme,” Ezeah testified. “Women are more inclined to understanding and trusting each other, you know, on an emotional level.”