Nigerian National Convicted After Six-Day Federal Trial for a Money Laundering Conspiracy Related to a Romance Scam and Other Fraud Schemes
Co-conspirators Convinced Vulnerable Elderly Victims to Send Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars to Bank Accounts, Which the Defendant then Helped to Launder
Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal jury in Maryland yesterday convicted Nigerian national Seun Banjo Ojedokun, age 37, for a money laundering conspiracy related to a romance scam and other fraud schemes.
The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur and Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur stated, “This defendant was part of a conspiracy that stole from many vulnerable and elderly victims across the United States, defrauding them through lies and laundering the funds internationally. The deceit used to steal from these victims was heartless, considering how vulnerable and financially devastated they were. Ojedokun was in Nigeria when he was committing these crimes. Law enforcement was able to arrest him when he came to the United States to attend school here. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to bringing to justice fraudsters who prey upon the elderly. We will continue our outreach efforts to make the public aware of scams and frauds targeting elderly victims and encourage anyone who believes they may be a victim to contact the newly launched Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311).”
“These targeted scams are all to prevalent and the FBI, along with our law enforcement partners, are diligently working to alert and protect the public from falling victim,” said Jennifer C. Boone, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “The arrest and conviction of Mr. Ojedokun, who was operating in Nigeria during the conspiracy, demonstrates the lengths that the FBI will go in order to hold accountable the people who commit these heinous crimes.”
According to the evidence presented at his six-day trial, between 2013 and March 2015, Ojedokun conspired with Gbenga Benson Ogundele, Mukhtar Danjuma Haruna, a/k/a “Mukky,” and others to use money deposited into bank accounts by fraud victims to engage in financial transactions in order to promote the fraud scheme and conceal the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the fraud proceeds.
According to evidence presented at trial, members of the conspiracy searched online dating websites to initiate romantic relationships with vulnerable men and women. They phoned, e-mailed, texted and used Internet chat messenger services to form romantic relationships with the victims, who lived throughout the United States.
Specifically, witnesses testified that members of the conspiracy used false stories and promises to convince the many victims to provide money to the conspirators, including fake hospital bills, plane trips to visit the victims, problems with overseas businesses, and foreign taxes. Ogundele and other conspirators opened bank accounts, called “drop accounts,” in order to receive millions of dollars from the victims. Testimony at trial showed that victims provided money to the conspirators as a result of the false stories and promises, either depositing money directly into drop accounts controlled by the conspirators, or by checks sent to the conspirators. The loss to the eight victims who testified at trial was well over $1 million and the overall total loss was substantially higher.
In addition, the evidence at trial showed that the conspirators engaged in other types of fraud, including a fraudulent employment scam in which the victim was led to believe she had been hired by a company, and was instructed to deposit the proceeds of a fraudulent check into a drop account controlled by the conspirators.
According to the evidence, Ojedokun, Ogundele, Haruna, and their co-conspirators laundered money received from the fraud victims by buying used cars and shipping them to Nigeria, among other methods. As part of the fraud schemes, Ojedokun and his co-conspirators transmitted and used images of financial transactions, including bank deposit receipts and wire transfer forms, as proof that a deposit of fraud money had been made by a victim.
Ogundele, age 61, formerly of Laurel, Maryland, was convicted in 2016 after a 17-day trial, of conspiracies to commit money laundering and wire fraud, as well as aggravated identity theft, and was sentenced to 234 months in federal prison. Haruna, age 46, of Nigeria, remains a fugitive and charges against him are still pending. In addition to Ogundele, eight other defendants were convicted for their roles in the fraud scheme and were sentenced to between a year and a day and 234 months in federal prison.
Ojedokun faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for January 20, 2021 at 10:00 a.m.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI for its work in the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas P. Windom and U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur represented the United States at trial.
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