ST. LOUIS — A man from Jennings admitted in court Wednesday to helping Nigerian romance scammers bilk women in 25 states out of more than $500,000 in cash and electronics.
Bonmene Sibe, 43, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, saying in court that he didn’t know about the romance scam conspiracy and didn’t know what was in the packages he collected from post office boxes in St. Louis city and county. But he acknowledged that he deliberately avoided knowing the truth and turned a blind eye to what he should have known was improper.
Sibe was one of three people indicted last year in connection with the romance scam ring, and the third to plead guilty.
Ovuoke Frank Ofikoro pleaded guilty in July and admitted that co-conspirators in Nigeria and in the U.S. stole the identities of U.S. military officers or created fictitious officers’ identities, and then used social media and dating platforms to woo their victims. They tricked the women into sending cash or electronics that supposedly were going to help the officers obtain a valuable financial portfolio, buy houses for the couple to share or return from overseas, his plea says.
Ofikoro told Sibe to find people who would open post office boxes for the scammers, Ofikoro’s plea says.
Ofikoro and Sibe then collected cash and electronics mailed by victims, and Ofikoro sent money to the conspirators, his plea says. Between Jan. 8 and June 4 of 2020, Ofikoro and Sibe collected or tried to collect 87 packages or mail that had been sent by victims in Illinois and 24 other states. Among them was a 71-year-old Tennessee woman who thought she was helping a U.S. Army general get home from a hospital in Syria, Ofikoro’s plea says.