USAO: Romance scammers from Fulshear cheated victims out of $3M #nigeria | #nigeriascams | #lovescams


Darlington Akporugo and Jasmin Sood used fake personas and sought out victims, who were often widows, on social media and online dating sites, the feds say.

FULSHEAR, Texas — A Fulshear couple is accused of using romance scams to cheat elderly victims out of millions of dollars, according to the US Attorney’s Office. 

Darlington Akporugo, 46, and Jasmin Sood, 35, are charged with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. 

They used fake identities and sought out victims, who were often widows, on social media and online dating sites, the feds say.

The pair led over a dozen victims nationwide to believe they were involved in romantic relationships and communicated with them using emails, text messages and phone calls, U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani said. He said once Akporugo and Sood gained their trust, they’d ask the victims for money. 

The victims were cheated out of a total of over $3.1 million from 2015 to 2022, according to Hamdani.

He said the suspects approached at least one victim in the Houston area in person and convinced her to ride with them to her bank where they gained control of her banking access devices. 

The indictment also charges Akporugo with aggravated identity theft and fraud in connection with an access device.

If convicted, Akporugo and Sood face up to 30 years in prison for each of the wire fraud counts and conspiracy. Akporugo could get another 10 years on the fraud in connection with an access device charge and another mandatory two years if convicted of the aggravated identity theft.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. 

Romance scam red flags

The scam Akporugo and Sood are accused of is a typical ploy used by romance scammers who prey on people who may be vulnerable. They often create social media accounts using someone else’s name and photo. They typically pretend to be widowers or widows or in the military to gain sympathy. They often use photos with children or pets to win hearts. 

“The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money,” the FBI says on its website.

Many romance scammers adjust their stories to what they think will work in each situation. For example, the FTC says these con artists often make up excuses to avoid meeting in person by saying they’re living or traveling outside the country, working on an oil rig, in the military, or working with an international organization.

“This makes it easier to avoid meeting in person—and more plausible when they ask for money for a medical emergency or unexpected legal fee,” the FBI says.

Some romance scammers may send private messages on dating apps asking to become someone’s “sugar momma” or “sugar daddy” and offer to pay their bills. Others may try to trick their victim into depositing money on a cryptocurrency trading platform. But these are both ways to trick unsuspecting victims into giving away their cash, according to the BBB.

Here are five other romance scam red flags to look out for.

Red Flag #1: Too good to be true. Many romance scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success to trick people into falling in love before asking their victims to send money. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.

Red Flag #2: In a hurry to get off the dating site or app. These scammers will try very quickly to get you to move the conversation to email, messenger, or over the phone. If a love interest appears to be in a hurry to get off the dating app to an unsecure chat app, that is a red flag.

Red Flag #3: Moving fast. The con artists who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring and believable at first. Many scammers will begin speaking of a future together and will tell you they love you quickly or use overly flowery language to flatter you.

Red Flag #4: Poor spelling or grammar. If the person you are communicating with has poor spelling or grammar, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a sign that you could be talking to a scammer. This is a common telltale sign for other types of scams too.

Red Flag #5: Tugging at your heartstrings. Before moving on to ask you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles, like their heat being cut off or that their car was stolen. They may even share a sad story from their past, such as the death of their parents or spouse.

Red Flag #6: No friends or just a handful of friends and relatively new social media accounts with few or no posts.

How to protect yourself from a romance scam

There are several ways to avoid falling victim to a romance scam. The BBB, FBI and AARP all share the following tips on how to protect yourself from being scammed:

  • Never send money to someone you’ve never met in person. You should immediately cut off contact if someone starts asking you for personal information like a credit card, bank, or government ID number.
  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their fake dating profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if the photos are stolen from somewhere else.
  • Be wary even if you’re the one who made contact first. Scammers flood dating websites with fake profiles and wait for victims to come to them. You should always ask specific questions about details found in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
  • Be very suspicious of requests to wire money or use a pre-paid debit card. These are scammers’ favorite ways to send payments because, like cash, it can’t be recovered once the money is gone.

How to report a romance scam

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all communication with the person immediately. You should also notify the social media site or app where you met the scammer. If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, wire transfer, credit or debit card, or cryptocurrency, the FTC says that you should contact the company or your bank right away.

“Tell them you paid a scammer and ask them to refund your money,” the FTC says.

To report a romance scam, you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov or go to the BBB Scam Tracker.



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