Money Launderers for Nigerian Romance
Scammers Sentenced to Short Prison Terms
September 23, 2021
By Jack Simon, Observer Staff Writer
We all have heard stories of lonely people falling prey to online romance scammers – especially from Nigeria –who conned some of them out of their life savings. And these stories always ended with a hope that one day these scammers or their abettors will face justice.
Well, that day has arrived for a group involved in a Nigerian romance scam, including a resident of Long Beach.
On Friday, an Oklahoma man was sentenced to four years in prison for managing a group of money launderers in an online Nigerian romance scam that defrauded multiple victims, including elderly individuals across the United States, and caused losses of at least $2.5 million, said federal officials.
Afeez Adebara, 36, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering on Nov. 3, 2020, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Previously, his co-conspirators received the following verdicts: John Ogundele, 32, of New York, was sentenced to 33 months in prison; Paul Usoro, 25, a Nigerian citizen and an OK resident, was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment; Joshua Ditep, 26, a Nigerian citizen, received a 10-month sentence; Tobiloba Kehinde, 29, a Nigerian residing in Oklahoma, was sentenced to eight months; and Chibuzo Obiefuna, 28, of Long Beach, and Jamiu Adedeji, 25, a Nigerian residing in OK, were each sentenced to time served.
According to court documents and testimony, between 2017 and November 2019, Adebara and co-conspirators knowingly concealed the proceeds of a romance scam operation by moving money between multiple bank accounts that were opened under various aliases to hide the identities of the co-conspirators, the DOJ said. Afterwards, Adebara took a commission for himself and sent the balance of the funds to the scammers in Nigeria, including vehicles and vehicle parts, court officials said.
Adebara coordinated with overseas co-conspirators who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms to defraud victims, according to the DOJ. Adebara opened multiple accounts using fraudulent identities, then provided the account and routing numbers to the overseas co-conspirators.
The co-conspirators told victims that they were U.S. residents working or traveling abroad. As the online relationships continued, they requested increasingly larger sums of money "to complete business projects or for them to return to the states," DOJ officials said. "The victims were directed by the overseas co-conspirators to send funds to certain bank accounts, with assurance that the money would purportedly be allocated as needed."
This federal case is part of an ongoing effort by the justice department to address online fraud schemes, including those based out of Nigeria, targeting U.S. citizens and residents, officials said.