COLLEYVILLE, Texas – A widow who lost tens of thousands of dollars to an online love interest scam is one of more than two dozen victims targeted.
More than $1 million in stolen money was sent from North Texas to Nigeria, with additional money going to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.
“I fell for it. It’s embarrassing. I’m not a stupid person, but believe me, they have got their act together,” one of the victims said.
A 70-year-old widow, who asked FOX 4 not to share her name or show her face, thought she found new love.
Instead, she lost $75,000 to a group of Nigerian gang members, according to the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.
Now, the ringleader of the “Yahoo Boys,” 43-year-old Ifeanyichukwu Obi, has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“They were ready for me,” the victim said.
[REPORTER: “They had a lot of documents ready to make themselves seem official?”]
“Yes, they did. They really did,” the victim responded.
In 2019, Colleyville police were tipped off to suspicious activity at a UPS store.
“Because they had an elderly customer who was bringing numerous packages containing cash to their location and shopping it to different addresses,” Colleyville Police Department Sgt. Dara Nelson explained.
A detective determined this person was being scammed by someone who wasn’t who they said they were.
“These people were praying on elderly widows or widowers,” Nelson said.
Scammers developed intimate relationships over social media, and down the line, convinced “lovers” to send cash.
“They were able to determine a crime ring of four individuals in the DFW area who were laundering this money, sending and receiving the money, and making different purchases,” Nelson said.
Obi, who was living in Grand Prairie, sent $1.3 million in stolen money to Nigeria during two months in 2019. He also bought trucks.
Investigators identified more than two dozen victims.
“It’s definitely a large crime ring that spans across multiple countries,” Nelson added.
“Pulled every heart string since they possibly could pull,” the victim said.
The widow said her scammer convinced her, after weeks of talking, that he was getting a big work contract, but until then, he needed a loan.
“It was such a big deal that I even had my church ladies praying for it,” she added.
Prosecutors are still working the cases of three others who have been indicted.
Her warning to others is be aware of who you’re really talking to online, and if someone is asking for you to send money, report that to authorities.
“You just get sucked into it,” she said.