A Canton man who romanced others with the goal of getting them to wire him money pleaded guilty in Boston federal court Friday for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, according to U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins’s office. He amassed around $1 million from his victims.
Mark Arome Okuo, a 43-year-old originally from Nigeria, will now face sentencing by a grand jury after he swindled more than $1 million in fraudulent proceeds.
He used online dating platforms to create fake profiles and match with other users before asking them to send him money. Okuo also had multiple passports under different aliases, which he used to open various bank accounts in the Boston area to hold the sums.
Part of Okuo’s scheme involved taking out cash withdrawals of less than $10,000 from the accounts to remain undetected.
Police arrested Okuo in March 2021, and he has been detained since. He was indicted in October 2021.
The crime could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years on parole, and $1 million or more in fines. His sentencing is scheduled for March 29.
This marks one of at least two other romance scams tried in Boston since September, and the second tried this year.
In Sept. 2022, 30-year-old Kofi Osei pleaded guilty to a similar scheme, according to a Department of Justice release. The Massachusetts man also created false personas to swindle others out of their money, and opened multiple bank accounts in Greater Boston to hold the $4 million in funds.
He faced charges of making a false statement to a bank, wire fraud, and money laundering.
On Jan. 13, a Taunton man was sentenced to two years in prison and two years of parole for his participation in a multi-person organized romance scam, according to another DOJ release. Francis Okafor, 30, was also ordered to pay $1,130,285 for bank fraud conspiracy.
Okafor opened bank accounts with fake passports to hold money others gained from pretend romances, netting a total of $1.1 million.
People across the country reported losing $547 million to romance scams in 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission. This was a record high for these types of schemes, with the total increasing by about 80% compared to 2020.
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