HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Nigerian national who was indicted in April 2021 in connection with a large fraud and money laundering scheme pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to court documents and statements made in connection with the plea hearing, Kenneth Emeni, 29, a citizen of Nigeria residing in Martinsburg, was involved from at least August 2017 to October 8, 2020, with Kenneth Ogudu, also known as Kenneth Lee, John Nassy, Romello Thorpe, Oluwagbenga Harrison, Ouluwabamishe Awolesi, and others in a money laundering conspiracy that took place in Huntington and elsewhere. Emeni lived in Huntington from August 2017 to December 2019. As part of the scheme, Emeni’s co-conspirators created online false personas and contacted victims via email, text messaging or online dating and social media websites in order to induce the victims into believing they were in a romantic relationship, friendship or business relationship with various false personas. The victims were persuaded to send money for a variety of false and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of the false personas.
Emeni’s role in the conspiracy was to let victims transfer money to his bank account that he knew was from unlawful activity. Emeni admitted that after the victims’ funds were deposited into his account, he kept some of the money for himself and forwarded some of the money to his co-conspirators via wire transfers or Zelle. Emeni received approximately $42,050 from his co-conspirators’ transfers and transferred approximately $46,197 to his co-conspirators during the money laundering conspiracy. Emeni further admitted that he and his co-conspirators transferred large sums of their fraud proceeds to offshore accounts. From 2018 until 2020, Emeni transferred over $358,846 to accounts in Nigeria and Ghana.
Emeni faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on April 11, 2022. As part of his plea agreement, Emeni agreed to pay $904,126.96 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), the West Virginia State Police and the South Charleston Police Department.
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorneys R. Gregory McVey and Kathleen Robeson are handling the prosecution.
The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams at https://www.ic3.gov/.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-0068 (Emeni, et al).