Ten men have been charged with conspiring to launder illegal proceeds that were obtained as a result of Nigerian romance scam operations.
U.S. Attorney Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma, Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office, and Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division made the announcement.
The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury in October and unsealed today after seven suspects were apprehended in early morning operations executed by the FBI in three states. Five defendants were arrested in Norman, Oklahoma, one defendant was arrested in Brooklyn, New York, and one defendant was arrested in Long Beach, California. Three other defendants remain at large.
“Everyone is vulnerable to phone and internet scams, but seeing a romance scam and money laundering conspiracy that resulted in the exploitation of elder Americans is just shameful,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “United States Attorneys across the nation are working diligently to empower victims of fraud to speak out so that online scammers can be brought to justice.”
“These individuals used a conspiracy involving romance scams to prey on dozens of victims across the country, many of whom experienced significant financial loss. Today’s arrests demonstrate that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not allow criminals to defraud innocent Americans,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the Oklahoma City Field Office.
The indictment alleges that since 2017, the co-conspirators concealed the proceeds of romance scam operations by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that were opened using fraudulent identity documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of the co-conspirators. Investigators identified at least three victims of the alleged romance scams in Seminole, Florida, Centerville, Ohio, and Pryor, Oklahoma.
The indictment alleges the co-conspirators coordinated with unknown individuals overseas who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms with the intent to defraud victims. The individual told the victims they were U.S. residents working abroad. In fact, the investigation revealed that these individuals were located in Nigeria. At the early stages of the “romance,” victims would receive requests for relatively small gifts, such as iTunes gift cards and cell phones. As the relationships continued, the requests would develop into increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete overseas projects or to return to the United States. The victims were directed by the online romance scammers to send funds to the defendants’ bank accounts, among other things, assuring the victims that they would allocate the money as needed. The indictment alleges that once the victims sent the funds, the defendants funneled the money to accounts that they operated. These accounts were allegedly opened under various aliases in order to obscure the source of the fraudulently obtained funds. In a further attempt to conceal the source of the money, the co-conspirators also purchased salvaged vehicles and car parts to export overseas, usually to Nigeria, the indictment alleges.
The following individuals have been charged in the case:
- Afeez Olajide Adebara, 34, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma;
- Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma, and Brooklyn, New York;
- Joshua Nnandom Ditep, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma;
- Paul Usoro, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, Oklahoma;
- Chibuzo Godwin Obiefuna Jr, 26, U.S. citizen residing in Norman, Oklahoma, and Long Beach, California;
- Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 23, citizen of Nigeria, residing in Norman, Oklahoma;
- Tobiloba Kehinde, 27, citizen of Nigeria residing in Norman Oklahoma;
- First and last name unknown #1, maintained an address in Brooklyn, New York;
- First and last name unknown #2, maintained an address in Dallas, Texas, and
- First and last name unknown #3, maintained an address in Dallas, Texas.
This indictment is part of an ongoing national effort by the Department of Justice to address online fraud schemes often based out of Nigeria that target U.S. citizens. The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office conducted the investigation with assistance from the FBI’s San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York Field Offices. Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nassar of the Northern District of Oklahoma, Assistant Chief Tracee Plowell and Trial Attorneys Michelle Pascucci and David Stier of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.