Two Nigerian, Chinwendu Azuonwu and Basil Amadi, have been arrested and charged to court for posing as 11-time Grammy Award winner, Bruno Mars, to defraud a 68-year-old American woman of $100,000 in a romance scam.
The two men appeared in a Houston court on Tuesday after they were accused of conniving to impersonate Bruno Mars on Instagram to strike up a romance with a Texas woman and coax her out of $100,000.
The main suspect, Azuonwu, 39, was charged with third-degree felony money laundering last month but was taken into custody this week. Iformation about his co-conspirator, Amadi, 29, was not available as of Wednesday morning.
According to Daily Mail, the victim, a resident of North Richland Hills, Texas, told police that in 2018 she created a profile on Instagram ‘in search of companionship.’
She then made contact online with someone claiming to be Bruno Mars who reached out and made her believe that he was interested in pursuing a meaningful relationship.
The woman told investigators that during these interactions on Instagram and Google Hangouts, she ‘fell in love’ with the person she thought was Mars.
In addition, ‘Mars’ told the woman that he planned to quit his tour so that he can be with her, after he had sent her multiple texts and photos of the artist while he was on tour.
The woman told police that she believed at the time that she was communicating with the Grammy Award winner after she received text messages showing Mars performing while he was on tour.
In September 2018, ‘Mars’ asked the woman to send him a $10,000 check to help cover touring expenses, according to police.
The woman agreed. She went to a local branch of the Wells Fargo bank in North Richland Hills and withdrew a cashier’s check made out to ‘Basil Chidiadi Amadi,’ a person described as a ‘friend of the band,’ according to authorities.
Two days later, the woman was once again contacted by ‘Mars’ who asked for another $90,000, though he did not explain the reason.
The woman then returned to her bank account at JPMorgan Chase and withdrew a cashier’s check that was made out to ‘Chi Autos’ – ‘at the request of “Mars”.’
The second check was deposited on September 14, 2018 into a separate bank account at JPMorgan Chase, according to investigators.
Investigators subpoenaed bank records and traced the two JPMorgan Chase accounts to Azuonwu and Amadi.
They then ran their names through the database of drivers license holders and found their pictures.
According to Harris County prosecutors, Azuonwu acknowledged that he was the owner of one of the bank accounts in question, though he denied ever knowing Amadi.
He also said he did not know how $90,000 was deposited into his account, according to the criminal complaint.
Amadi also told investigators that he did not know Azuonwu. He also could not explain the source of the $10,000 payment that appeared in his bank records.
In Harris County Probable Cause Court, Azuonwu’s bail was set at $30,000.
If convicted, each of them faces between two and 10 years in state prison.
This is coming barely 48 hours after a popular Nigerian footballer in Malta, Sunday Eboh, was also arrested for allegedly defrauding an elderly woman of €58,000 (N32.7 million) in romance scam.