Chicago Resident Sentenced to Seven Years in Connection to International “Romance Scam”
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois
CHICAGO — A man who helped lead a multi-year fraud scheme carried out by individuals in the United States and Nigeria has been sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison.
OLANIYI NASIRU OJIKUTU, a 39-year-old legal permanent resident of the U.S., who was born in Nigeria and was residing in Chicago at the time of the crimes, was one of ten individuals indicted as the result of “Operation Gold Phish,” a Chicago-based investigation which identified a variety of cyber-enabled scams primarily targeting elderly victims. The schemers built trust with victims through a purported online romance before convincing the victims to send money. The victims were contacted via websites such as Match.com, Facebook, and Instagram.
After being notified of the charges against him in May of 2019, Ojikutu fled via bus to Canada but was apprehended seven months later. He was turned over to United States authorities in January 2020 and pled guilty to one count of wire fraud in July 2022.
Over the course of approximately three years, Ojikutu opened approximately 25 bank accounts in his own name, a fake name, and a shell company name through which approximately $3.4 million in fraudulently obtained proceeds were transferred. Ojikutu used the fraudulently obtained funds for his own personal benefit, including to purchase vehicles in the United States and ship them to Nigeria for resale. As the result of Ojikutu’s actions, some victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On February 8, 2023, U.S. District Judge John Robert Blakey imposed an 88-month prison sentence for Ojikutu. All but one of the nine defendants in U.S. custody have pled guilty in this case. The alleged leader, DANIEL SAMUEL ETA, also known as “Captain” and “Etaoko,” 35, of Skokie has plead not guilty and his case is still pending.
The sentence is announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert W. Wheeler, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Kai Pickens, Acting Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago. Valuable assistance was provided by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles W. Mulaney represented the government.
The FBI estimates that approximately 24,000 people lost more than $956 million in romance scams in 2021 alone. For tips on how to protect yourselves and your loved ones, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s romance scam webpage. To report a suspected romance fraud, file a report via the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
Updated February 9, 2023