BOSTON – A Nigerian national pleaded guilty yesterday in connection with defrauding victims using various online scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Esogie Osawaru, 27, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. U.S. Senior District Court Judge Douglas P. Woodlock scheduled sentencing for March 11, 2021. Osawaru was arrested in June 2020 along with a co-defendant, Nosayamen Iyalekhue.
Osawaru and, allegedly, Iyalekhue participated in a series of romance, pandemic unemployment insurance, and other online scams designed to defraud victims by convincing them to send money to accounts controlled by the defendants. To carry out the scams, the defendants allegedly used false foreign passports in the names of others, but with their photos, to open numerous bank accounts, and in turn directed the victims to send money to these accounts. Osawaru and, allegedly, Iyalekhue then rapidly withdrew the victims’ money from various bank branches and ATMs, often multiple times during a single day. It is alleged that the schemes included collecting unemployment insurance in the name of others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, and forfeiture. The defendant is also subject to deportation proceedings. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Securities, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.