Fugitive defendant who fled during trial convicted by federal jury for laundering millions of dollars stolen from fraud victims throughout the U.S.
ATLANTA – A federal grand jury has returned two indictments charging seven Nigerian nationals with federal charges ranging from wire fraud to identity theft arising from their operation of online romance fraud schemes that cost users of American dating websites over $1.5 million in losses. Federal agents have arrested five of the seven defendants - two defendants remain at-large. The indictments were partially unsealed earlier today.
“The defendants in these cases allegedly used fake personas on online dating websites to trick lonely individuals into giving them money,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “The defendants would allegedly spend weeks cultivating online relationships with their victims before defrauding them. Some victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement savings or inheritances. Users of online dating websites should be aware of such scams and should exercise extreme caution if asked for money by anyone online or over the phone.”
“The anonymity of the internet often makes a tempting playground for unscrupulous individuals who are simply waiting for an opportunity to steal from others,” said Thomas J. Holloman, III, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The special agents of the IRS - Criminal Investigation are uniquely skilled in their ability to trace the criminal proceeds obtained as a result of online fraud, and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in an effort to hold cybercriminals accountable for their actions.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictments, and other information presented in court: The defendants and other conspirators allegedly created phony dating profiles on popular online dating websites that described fictitious personas. These profiles depicted photographs of attractive men and women that, in some instances, were public figures, such as government officials or models, taken from publically available websites. The conspirators allegedly used their fake online personas to target users of online dating websites and falsely pose as potential paramours by expressing strong romantic interest in the targeted users. These conspirators often targeted vulnerable individuals who possessed financial assets and in some cases spent weeks and months cultivating romantic relationships with them through online messaging, text messaging, and voice calls.
After gaining their affection and trust, the conspirators, posing as the fake paramours, allegedly provided the targeted users with elaborate false stories to cause the users to send them money through interstate wire or online transfers to bank accounts controlled by the conspirators. The fake paramours often claimed to be working overseas and in need of money to travel back to the United States or to complete business deals abroad. Once the conspirators received money from targeted users, the conspirators quickly withdrew the funds and dispersed them into other accounts, domestically and abroad.
The indictments charge the defendants with a total of 60 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, identity theft, and use of false passports. The defendants charged in the indictments are as follows:
●Olu Victor Alonge, a/k/a Serge Damessi, a/k/a Didier Baraze, a/k/a Mobo Marcus Adeh, a/k/a Ayo Baraze, a/k/a Nicolas Soglo, 34, of Newnan, Georgia;
●Ugochukwu Lazarus Onebunne, a/k/a Policap Tizhe, a/k/a Saheed Ademoha, 41, of Douglasville, Georgia;
●Olajide Olalekan Adara, a/k/a Kelvin Mensah, 33, of Loganville, Georgia;
●Joshua Adedeji Ipoade, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia;
●Oladunni Temitope Oladipupo, 24, of Lynn, Massachusetts; and
●Two other defendants are fugitives and their identities remain sealed.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys John S. Ghose and Sekret Sneed are prosecuting the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.