Eleven Nigerians have been indicted by the United States authorities for defrauding elderly Americans in romance scams.
The 11 persons were arrested in a Wednesday morning operation and have been charged for a number of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
They were among the 35 persons arrested for fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who allegedly carried out scams worth $17 million.
“The majority of the defendants charged in this investigation have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, law enforcement revealed Friday,” the United States Department of Justice said in a statement.
Those arrested and charged are:
- David Animashaun, 38 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51 – arrested in the Eastern District of Texas, charged by the Northern District of Texas wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Ijeoma Okoro, 31 – arrested in DFW, wire fraud conspiracy fraud, money laundering conspiracy
- Chukwemeka Orji, 36 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Frederick Orji, 37 – arrested in Dallas, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Uwadiale Esezobor, 36 – arrested in Lubbock, charged with mail and wire fraud conspiracy
- Victor Idowu, 36 – arrested in Los Angeles, charged with mail and wire fraud conspiracy
- Afeez Abiola Alao, 37 – wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47 – wire fraud conspiracy
According to court documents, these defendants allegedly preyed on elderly victims, many of whom were widowed or divorced. They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites like Match.com, ChistianMingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish, searching for targets.
Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob-stories about why they needed money – i.e., taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc. – and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts, tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
“Crimes like these are especially despicable because they rely not only on victims’ lack of internet savvy, but also, their isolation, their loneliness, and sometimes their grief. As the victims open their hearts, the perpetrators open their wallets,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said at a press conference announcing the charges. “The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people.”
If convicted, the defendants face up 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy counts and up to 10 years in federal prison on the money laundering conspiracy counts.
The FBI estimates that more than 20,000 Americans have lost more than $600 million in romance scams in 2020 alone.