Union County Man Charged with Transacting in Criminal Proceeds of a Romance Scam
NEWARK, N.J. – A Union County man was arrested at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for transacting in the criminal proceeds of an elaborate romance scam, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced today.
Eseosa Obaseki, 36, of Linden, New Jersey, is charged by complaint with engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from wire fraud. He appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey L. Cureton in federal court in the Northern District of Texas and was released in the custody of a third-party custodian pending his initial appearance in the District of New Jersey.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Obaseki was the owner of MKO Deliveries Inc. (MKO), a New Jersey-based corporation, and the signatory on a bank account held at Bank-1 (the “Bank-1 account.”) Victim-1 was a resident of Washington State. Individual-1 was a fictious online persona created to defraud Victim-1 and others on online dating and social media applications.
In March or April 2019, Victim-1 was contacted by Individual-1 while playing an internet-based word-game. The pair continued the conversation on a separate internet-based communications platform. Individual-1 and Victim-1 communicated for months on the platform before Individual-1 began asking Victim-1 for money in July 2019. Individual-1, under false pretenses, convinced Victim-1 of his romantic interest in Victim-1, and in doing so, gained Victim-1’s trust.
In June 2019, Individual-1 utilized the communications platform to ask Victim-1 for money. Individual-1 falsely stated to Victim-1 that the money was for business expenses and shipping expenses for a package containing a “box of valuables” that he said he intended to ship to Victim-1. Individual-1 sent Victim-1 emails and messages containing false invoices from a fake shipping company for various fictitious customs fees related to the package.
In January 2020, Individual-1 asked Victim-1 to transfer $100,000 into the Bank-1 account, which only contained $0.41 at the time. Individual-1 falsely represented to Victim-1 that this payment was for expenses associated with the “box of valuables.” On Jan. 9, 2020, based on the fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises of Individual-1, Victim-1 arranged to have $100,000 wire-transferred from her bank account to the Bank-1 account.
Over the next several weeks, Obaseki systematically drained the Bank-1 account through a series of withdrawals, cashier’s checks, and other transactions. For instance, on Jan. 15, 2020, Obaseki withdrew $12,370 from the Bank-1 account at a branch in Elizabeth, New Jersey, in the form of cash, cashier’s checks, and bank fees.
On Feb. 6, 2020, based on the fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises of Individual-1, Victim-1 arranged to have $210,000 wire-transferred from her bank account to the Bank-1 account. Again, Obaseki systematically drained the funds from the Bank-1 account through a series of withdrawals, cashier’s checks, and other transactions. For instance, on or about February 7, 2020, Obaseki withdrew $24,394 from the Bank-1 account at a branch in Newark, in the form of cash, cashier’s checks, and bank fees.
Victim-1 never received a package from Individual-1, including any package containing the “box of valuables.” On Feb. 21, 2020, an investigator employed by Bank-1 contacted Obaseki to discuss the wire transfers that occurred in January and February 2020. In a recorded call, Obaseki falsely stated that the recent $210,000 wire transfer had come from someone with whom he had just started working in his car part business.
Each charge of transacting in criminal proceeds is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years or twice the amount of criminally derived property involved in the transaction.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of George M. Crouch Jr., with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Shawn Barnes and Jonathan Fayer of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.
The charge and allegations contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.