BOSTON – A former New Bedford man has been extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom to face wire fraud and money laundering charges involving funds obtained from “romance scam” victims.
Chukwunonso “Douglas” Umegbo, a/k/a James Abbott, a/k/a Michael Philips, a/k/a Richard Armani, 37, formerly of New Bedford, was arrested in London on April 4, 2022 and was extradited to the United States on Feb. 10, 2023. Following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston on Feb. 13, 2023, Umegbo was detained pending a hearing set for March 2, 2023. Umegbo was indicted in February 2021 on six counts of making a false statement to a bank, two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
According to the charging documents, between no later than 2018 through at least 2019, Umegbo opened bank accounts in the greater Boston area using fake identity documents. It is alleged that the bank accounts were used to receive fraudulently obtained funds from a number of victims of romance scams, in which perpetrators create fictitious online personas to develop online romantic relationships with individuals in the U.S., and then leverage those relationships to obtain money and/or property. Once the fraudulently obtained funds reached the accounts controlled by Umegbo, Umegbo allegedly withdrew the money in cash, used the funds to purchase cashier’s checks, or spent the money on personal purchases. Altogether, the fraudulent accounts received more than $560,000.
The charge of making a false statement to a bank provides for a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a fine of $1 million. The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the scheme, whichever is greater. The charge of money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000, or twice the value of the criminally derived property. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Darnell Edwards, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; and Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England made the announcement today. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen A. Kearney of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.