A Nigerian, Tobiloba Kehinde, has pleaded guilty in a U.S. District Court for his role as a money launderer in a romance scam that defrauded multiple victims, including elder Americans, of millions, U.S. Attorney Trent Shores has said.
Kehinde, 28, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering before the U.S. District Court Judge Gregory K. Frizzell.
Kehinde's sentencing hearing is set for March 29, 2021.
"In the last year, Americans were defrauded out of more than $200 million due to romance scams. Whether these con artists are romancing vulnerable elder victims online or facilitating money laundering to hide the illicit proceeds, this U.S. Attorney's Office will never stop fighting to get justice for the victims," said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.
"Today, Tobiloba Kehinde, becomes the third conspirator brought to justice for his role in a Nigerian romance scheme."
In his plea agreement, Kehinde admitted that he knew the money involved in the financial transactions involved the proceeds from unlawful activity.
He further stated that he knew the financial transactions were designed, in whole or in part, to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership, or the control of the proceeds of the unlawful activity.
SaharaReporters gathered that from 2017 through November 2019, Kehinde knowingly concealed a romance scam operation's proceeds by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts opened under various aliases using fake passports and other fraudulent identification documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of the co-conspirators.
Court documents stated that he and his co-conspirators took further steps to conceal the source of the funds.
They took a commission, and directed the remainder of the funds back to the online romance scammers in Nigeria in the form of vehicles and vehicle parts.
According to court documents, Kehinde coordinated with overseas co-conspirators who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms with the intent to defraud victims.
Kehinde opened several accounts using fraudulent identities, including "Jeff Atto" and "Ari Lawson," then provided the account and routing numbers to the overseas co-conspirators.
The overseas co-conspirators told the victims they were US residents working abroad. The investigation revealed that these overseas co-conspirators were located in Nigeria.
As these online "relationships" continued, the overseas co-conspirators' would request increasingly larger sums of money, claiming that the funds were needed to complete business projects or return to the United States.
The overseas co-conspirators directed the victims to send funds to Kehinde and others' bank accounts, assuring them that he would allocate the money as needed.
Kehinde and his co-defendants were charged in November 2019. Afeez Olajide Adebara, 35, and John Oluwaseun Ogundele, 31, have also pleaded guilty.
The remaining defendants are Joshua Naandom Ditep, 26, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman; Paul Usoro, 26, Nigerian citizen and legal permanent resident of the United States living in Norman; Chibuzo Godwin Obiefuna, Jr., 27, U.S. citizen residing in Long Beach, California.
The statement added, "Others are Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 24, Nigerian citizen, living in Norman; First and last name unknown #1, who maintained an address in Brooklyn, New York; First and last name unknown #2, who maintained an address in Dallas, Texas; and First and last name unknown #3, who maintained an address in Dallas, Texas. Ditep, Usoro, Obiefuna, and Adedeji await trial while the three additional co-defendants remain fugitives.
"These remaining defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
"The FBI's Oklahoma City Field Office conducted the investigation. Trial Attorney Babasijibomi Moore of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nassar of the Northern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the case."