The FBI has arrested 35 Nigerian internet fraudsters for romance scams worth $17 million in the United States.
According to NBC, officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the FBI announced that the 35 suspects were indicted for criminal charges in North Texas.
The suspects, who were charged with wire fraud and money laundering, were accused of being part of a very sophisticated scheme that stole more than $17 million from more than 100 people nationwide.
According to court documents, these defendants allegedly preyed on older victims, many of whom were widowed or divorced. They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites like Match.com, ChistianMingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish, searching for targets.
The conspirators would pose as an interested partner and then build a level of trust with their target before eventually sharing a sob story that ended with them needing a large sum of money.
“Crimes like these are especially despicable because they rely not only on victims’ lack of internet savvy, but also, their isolation, their loneliness, and sometimes their grief.
“The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people,” acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said at a press conference announcing the charges.
Shah said that in many cases, the alleged thieves would then siphon thousands of dollars from their victim’s bank accounts, and “they will vanish into thin air once they depleted the savings.”
Investigators said the funds are taken from the victims eventually made their way to accounts located in Africa and Asia.
Shah added that romance scams are often difficult to prosecute because victims are often embarrassed, feel duped, and don’t want to come forward.
Still, they encourage victims to come forward and reassure them that the scams are more common than one might think — more than 20,000 people lost $600 million in romance scams in 2020.
Eleven of the arrests were made in the Northern District of Texas while 24 arrests were made in the Eastern District of Texas.
Those charged in the Northern District of Texas include:
- David Animashaun, 38 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51 – arrested in the Eastern District of Texas, charged by the Northern District of Texas wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Ijeoma Okoro, 31 – arrested in DFW, wire fraud conspiracy fraud, money laundering conspiracy
- Chukwemeka Orji, 36 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
- Frederick Orji, 37 – arrested in Dallas, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Uwadiale Esezobor, 36 – arrested in Lubbock, charged with mail & wire fraud conspiracy
- Victor Idowu, 36 – arrested in Los Angeles, charged with mail & wire fraud conspiracy
- Afeez Abiola Alao, 37 – wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
- Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47 – wire fraud conspiracy
All of the defendants named are innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face up 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy counts and up to 10 years in federal prison on the money laundering conspiracy counts.
KanyiDaily had reported how the FBI was criticized for using six Nigerians to publicize an international crime involving more numbers of suspects from other nationalities.