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U.S. Justice Department charges 11 Nigerians with romance scam, online fraud

Eleven Nigerians were indicted by U.S. Justice Department Wednesday with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Patrick J. Freaney, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service announced the unsealing of the indictment.

The indictment unsealed in Manhattan Federal Court, New York, identified some of the 11 Nigerians as Adedayo John, Oluwadamilola Akinpelu, Kazeem Raheem, Morakinyo Gbeyide and Warris Adenuga a.k.a Blue.

There were also Smart Agunbiade, Lateef Goloba, Samsondeen Goloba, Olawale Olaniyan, Olawoyin Peter Olanrewaju and Emmanuel Oronsaye-Ajayi.

They were all collectively accused of participating in one or both of a money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy, which received funds stolen from victims.

The charge was in connection with their involvement in laundering millions of dollars in proceeds derived from business email compromises and romance fraud schemes.

Nine defendants were arrested Wednesday in the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York, and were presented before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in the Southern District of New York.

One defendant was arrested in the Southern District of Texas, and was presented in that district’s Federal Court.

One defendant remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the defendants were part of a criminal enterprise that not only defrauded businesses by assuming the online identities of legitimate counterparties, but also preyed on vulnerable elderly people, deceiving victims into sending money in phony romance scams. Thanks to the Secret Service, the defendants are now facing federal felony charges.”

Victims were typically defrauded in one of two ways.

In some instances, business email compromise fraud schemes were used to trick businesses into transferring funds to bank accounts the victims believed were under the control of legitimate recipients of the funds as part of normal business operations.

Unknown to the victims, the bank accounts were under the control of the Defendants or their co-conspirators.

In other instances, romance scams were used, primarily through electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, social media, or online dating websites, to deceive victims.

Many of the victims – many of whom were vulnerable older men and women – into believing they were in romantic relationships with fake identities, and then using false pretenses to cause the victims to transfer funds to bank accounts controlled by the Defendants or their co-conspirators.

As a result of these frauds, law enforcement officers have identified more than 50 victims who have transferred more than $9 million to bank accounts under the control of the Defendants.

Ten defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, KAZEEM RAHEEM, 29, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWALE OLANIYAN, 41, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Nine defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, SMART AGUNBIADE, 28, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

One defendant – MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39 – is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.

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