Eleven Nigerians have been indicted by the United States Justice Department with conspiracy to commit money laundering, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
On Wednesday, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, and the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service, Patrick J. Freaney announced the unsealing of an indictment charging the 11 Nigerians in connection with their involvement in laundering millions of dollars in proceeds derived from business email compromises and romance fraud schemes.
This was disclosed by the US Justice Department on Wednesday.
Nine defendants were arrested in the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York and will be presented before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in the Southern District of New York.
One defendant was arrested in the Southern District of Texas and will be presented in that district’s federal court. One defendant remains at large.
Williams was quoted as saying: “As alleged, the defendants were part of a criminal enterprise that not only defrauded businesses by assuming the online identities of legitimate counterparties but also preyed on vulnerable elderly people, deceiving victims into sending money in phoney romance scams. Thanks to the Secret Service, the defendants are now facing federal felony charges.”
Freaney said: “As the continued threat posed by cyber-enabled fraud remains ever-present, the U.S. Secret Service remains steadfast in its pursuit of those who threaten our collective financial security.
“This case is no exception, as the defendants allegedly utilized a myriad of fraud schemes, to include romance scams and business email compromises, to defraud over 50 victims in excess of $9 million.
“Due to the efforts of the Secret Service and our partners at the New York City Police Department Financial Crimes Task Force, this organized group will no longer be able to operate its alleged scheme to defraud and will answer the charges brought against them in the Southern District of New York.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court, the accused persons: Adedayo John, Oluwadamilola Akinpelu, Kazeem Raheem, Morakinyo Gbeyide, Warris Adenuga, a/k/a “Blue,” Smart Agunbiade, Lateef Goloba, Samsondeen Goloba, Olawale Olaniyan, Olawoyin Peter Olarewaju, And Emmanuel Oronsaye-Ajayi (collectively, the “Defendants”) participated in one or both of a money-laundering conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy, which received funds stolen from victims.
According to the charge, the defendants defrauded people in business email compromise fraud schemes which were used to trick businesses into transferring funds to bank accounts believed to be under the control of legitimate recipients of the funds as part of normal business operations, when in fact the bank accounts were under the control of the defendants or their co-conspirators.
In other instances, romance scams were used, primarily through electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, social media, or online dating websites, to deceive victims – many of whom were vulnerable older men and women – into believing they were in romantic relationships with fake identities, and then using false pretences to cause the victims to transfer funds to bank accounts controlled by the Defendants or their co-conspirators.
As a result of these frauds, law enforcement officers have identified more than 50 victims who have transferred more than $9 million to bank accounts under the control of the Defendants.
Ten defendants – Adedayo John, Oluwadamilola Akinpelu, Kazeem Raheem, Morakinyo Gbeyide, Warris Adenuga, A/K/A “Blue,” Lateef Goloba, Samsondeen Goloba, Olawale Olaniyan, Olawoyin Peter Olarewaju, and Emmanuel Oronsaye-Ajayi, – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Nine of them are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
One defendant – Morakinyo Gbeyide – is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by a judge.
Williams commended the investigative work of the Secret Service. The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Kaylan E. Lasky and Matthew Weinberg are in charge of the prosecution.