Two Nigerian Nationals Indicted for Romance and Pandemic Unemployment Fraud Schemes
BOSTON – Two Nigerian nationals were indicted on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in connection with their roles in expansive online fraud schemes targeting individuals in the United States, including romance scams and pandemic unemployment assistance fraud.
Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi, 36, and Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi, 34, who previously resided in Canton, were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, three counts of wire fraud and one count of engaging in unlawful monetary transactions. In March 2021, the defendants were charged by criminal complaint.
According to the charging documents, the defendants, along with other co-conspirators, allegedly participated in a series of romance and other online scams designed to defraud victims into sending money to accounts and debit cards they controlled. Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
To carry out the schemes, the defendants allegedly used fake passports in the names of others to open numerous bank accounts and directed victims to send money to these accounts. They allegedly used the accounts to collect fraudulent pandemic unemployment benefits in the names of beneficiaries who did not apply for such benefits.
The charge of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, and forfeiture. The charge of wire fraud 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 charge of unlawful monetary transactions provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000, or twice the value of the criminally derived property, whichever is greater, and forfeiture. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joshua McCallister, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; and Jonathan Davidson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara Miron Bloom and Ian Stearns of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The details contained in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.