A federal judge in Texas, United States, has sentenced a 29-year-old Nigerian Akhabue Ehis Onoimoimilin to 87 months imprisonment for his participation in a money laundering conspiracy that swindled more than $2.2 million from victims using Business Email Compromise (BEC) and romance scams.
Onoimoimilin, aka “David Harrison,” On February 2, Onoimoimilin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and also admitted that in June 2015, he used a fraudulent foreign passport in the name of David Harrison to open bank accounts in Austin and Houston.
Onoimoimilin used the accounts to receive, launder and distribute wire transfers to coconspirators illegally receiving proceeds of BEC and romance schemes.
“For his efforts, Onoimoimilin collected between 10% and 15% of more than $420,000 in fraudulently obtained funds,” US Department of Justice said in a statement on its website.
“In romance scams, conspirators often located outside the U.S. review established online dating sites, targeting victims who appear lonely based upon their profiles.
“The fraudsters create fake profiles and exploit the emotional vulnerabilities of the victims.
“Sometimes the scammers use computer intrusion techniques to alter legitimate payment request emails, changing the recipient bank accounts.
“Sometimes they send spoofed emails from email addresses similar to the real email accounts used by trusted partners.”
DOJ said the scammers trick the employees into making wire transfer payments to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners – except the money ends up in accounts controlled by the fraudsters.
Also in addition to Onoimoimilin prison term, U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman, ordered that Onoimoimilin pay $865,210.78 in restitution to his victims and be placed on supervised release for two years after his prison term.
Judge Pitman also ordered a money judgment against the defendant in the amount of $50,605 for the proceeds he received from the scheme.
“These morally reprehensible schemes deprive people of their hard-earned money and even their entire life savings and retirement funds, leaving humiliation and financial ruin behind,” said U.S. Attorney Ashley C. Hoff.
“Our office will continue to vigorously prosecute those who conspire to prey on vulnerable victims in this manner.”
“The types of fraud committed by Mr. Onoimoimilin not only have lasting ramifications for the affected victims, but also threaten the integrity of our country’s financial systems,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Tim Tubbs of the Homeland Security Investigation’s San Antonio Division.
“While today’s sentence is a decisive victory for the victims, the overall fight against fraud continues. HSI will do everything in its power to bring other cyber criminals to justice and recover ill-gotten gains for those victimized.”