LOS ANGELES – A New York City man has been sentenced to 70 months in federal prison for leading a conspiracy that laundered money stolen from victims of romance scams and business email compromise scams, causing a total loss of nearly $1 million, the Justice Department announced today.
Okechukwu Nwofor, 32, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced on Monday by United States District Judge Stephen V. Wilson, who also ordered him to pay $392,296 in restitution. During Monday’s sentencing hearing, Judge Wilson described Nwofor as being the “kingpin” of the scheme as well as the “personification of evil.”
Nwofor pleaded guilty on February 21 to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
In his plea agreement, Nwofor admitted to leading a money laundering conspiracy from at least July 2018 to August 2019. Nwofor used a network of individuals who received fraudulent proceeds obtained from the victims of romance and business email compromise scams. Once the illicitly obtained funds were received, Nwofor and his co-conspirators quickly withdrawn or transferred into accounts they controlled.
To accomplish this scheme, Nwofor opened bank accounts in his name and the name of an Albany, New York-based company he founded, Juboy New Generation Inc. Using these bank accounts as well as others controlled by his co-conspirators, Nwofor regularly laundered money stolen by his co-conspirators via romance scams and business email compromise scams, which were sent to them from victims via interstate wires.
Nwofor typically charged his co-conspirators approximately 20% of the incoming funds, and then distributed a portion of the remaining funds to his accomplices and others.
The total losses in this scheme exceeded $930,000.
For example, in September 2018, a romance scam victim, who was a Pasadena resident, wired approximately $19,000 to a New York-based bank account controlled by one of Nwofor’s accomplices. Over the course of three days, this accomplice – at Nwofor’s direction – wired approximately $16,140 of the victim’s stolen money to a Nwofor-controlled bank account.
“[Nwofor] and his co-conspirators’ fraudulent conduct has left many of the victims in dire straits, including one victim’s inability to care for her disabled son, the foreclose of another’s home, and even one victim tragically taking her own life,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum.
Four other defendants in this case admitted their roles as money mules and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Three of them received probationary sentences and one awaits sentencing.
The FBI investigated this matter and previously has issued public service announcements urging the public to beware of romance scams and business email compromise scams.
Assistant United States Attorneys Ali Moghaddas of the Major Frauds Section and Andrew M. Roach of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section prosecuted this case.