The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a Smyrna man, Oluwadamilare Kolaogunbule, entered a guilty plea on charges of money laundering in connection with a romance scam and was sentenced to 71 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release.
He was also ordered to pay $2,307,020 to the victims of the crime.
Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Terrence W. Boyle.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam F. Hulbig prosecuted the case.
The conviction was the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that included help from the South African Police Service.
The public information release described Kolaogunbule’s role in the scheme as follows:
According to court documents and other information presented in court, between 2014 and 2018, Kolaogunbule opened, maintained, and controlled approximately 20 different bank accounts at multiple financial institutions that were used to receive approximately $2.5 million in romance scam proceeds. Romance scammers exploit victims who are looking for companionship by creating fake profiles on online dating websites that include false personal details, such as the death of a spouse or military service. After creating the illusion of a romantic relationship to gain the victim’s trust, the scammer will typically solicit the victim for money to alleviate some fabricated crisis, such as a medical or business emergency.
More than 60 victims were directed to send money to Kolaogunbule’s accounts, many of which were titled in the names of purported export companies, including DSC Exports and Belmont Integrated Logistics. In fact, these companies were fronts for Kolaogunbule’s money laundering business.
“Romance scammers use dating apps and social media to prey upon lonely, vulnerable, and often elderly victims looking for love,” stated US Attorney Michael Easley. “These swindlers target the most vulnerable in our society, inflicting tragic financial and psychological tolls, and are facilitated by professional money launders like the defendant, who move illicit gains to co-conspirators offshore. Our office will identify and prosecute those who profit from these crimes.”
“We have an obligation to look after our seniors,” Easley said. “People should check in on their elderly friends and family members. Ensure they know to never send money or financial information to people they meet online and don’t know in person. Scammers are sophisticated. Be sure our seniors know they should never be embarrassed to speak up to report suspicious behavior.”