Eleven Nigerians have been indicted by the United States authorities for allegedly defrauding elderly Americans in romance scams.
According to the court document, the defendants preyed on elderly victims, many of whom were widowed or divorced. They assumed fake names and used dating sites like Match.com, ChistianMingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish, to get victims.
The 11 persons were arrested in an operation on Wednesday morning, September 22, and have been charged for a number of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments.
They were among the 35 persons arrested for fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They were alleged to have carried out scams worth $17 million.
“The majority of the defendants charged in this investigation have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, law enforcement revealed Friday,” the United States Department of Justice said in a statement.
The defendants are; David Animashaun, 38; Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40; Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51; Ijeoma Okoro, 31; Chukwemeka Orji, 36; Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35; Frederick Orji, 37; Uwadiale Esezobor, 36; Victor Idowu, 36; Afeez Abiola Alao, 37; and Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47.
They were arrested by the FBI in DFW, Eastern District of Texas, Dallas, Lubbock, Los Angeles and charged in the Northern District of Texas for alleged fraud conspiracy, money laundering, mail and wire fraud conspiracy.
The defendants, if convicted, face up to 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.
Acting U.S. Attorney, Prerak Shah at a press conference announcing the charges said the crimes, “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 FBI estimates that more than 20,000 Americans have lost more than $600 million in romance scams in 2020 alone.