At least 11 Nigerians have been arrested in the United States for preying on the 'loneliness and grief' of some elderly Americans just to rip them of their money.
In what the Justice Department described as 'Romance Scam', the 11 suspects, were arrested during a large-scale operation Wednesday morning.
The department has charged them with a variety of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and launder monetary instruments.
The suspects were identified as David Animashaun, Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, Irabor Fatarr Musa, Chukwemeka Orji, Frederick Orji, Emanuel Stanley Orji, Ijeoma Okoro, Uwadiale Esezobor, Victor Idowu, Afeez Abiola Alao, and Ambrose Sunday Ohide.
On Friday the law enforcement, upon investigation, revealed that the majority of the defendants "have ties to a transnational organized crime syndicate originating in Nigeria.
The victims, many of whom were widowed or divorced were scammed using fake names and trolled dating sites like Match.com, ChristianMingle, JSwipe and PlentyofFish.
Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sub-stories about why they needed money – i.e., taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc. – and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts, tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
“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. As the victims open their hearts, the perpetrators open their wallets,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said at a press conference announcing the charges. “The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people.”
“The crimes allegedly committed by these defendants hit close to home. Your neighbours, parents, friends and family would be targets of this organization. The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives, really, and then disappeared,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “We’re confident this investigation will have a significant impact on this region and beyond.”
If convicted, they face at least 30 years in prison; 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.