Texas Man Sentenced for Role in Scamming Seniors in Rhode Island and Elsewhere in Online Romance Scams
PROVIDENCE – A federal grand jury in Providence has returned a superseding indictment charging six individuals with allegedly laundering millions of dollars gained through multi-faceted fraud schemes run out of Nigeria, primarily targeting elderly U.S. citizens.
It is alleged that dozens of victims were befriended by scammers feigning romantic intentions through online social media platforms and dating sites. Scammers used the relationships and trust they built to convince victims to provide them with money to assist with business ventures or debt.
Other victims were allegedly convinced by Nigerian scammers that they had won a sweepstakes, but that upfront cash payments were required to release the funds to the winner. Yet other victims were allegedly scammed by paying rent to individuals who purported to own property they in fact did not own or control. In addition, other victims were scammed into paying fraudulent shipping costs for items sold online.
“Elder fraud is an international crime that finds its victims wherever they live. Federal, state, and local law enforcement has made it a priority to do whatever it takes to track down and hold accountable fraudsters, particularly those who target our vulnerable populations, no matter where they are,” said United States Attorney Aaron L. Weisman. “As in this investigation, often times victims first reach out to their local police departments to report they have been swindled. Led by the FBI and US Postal Inspection Service, nearly two-dozen law enforcement agencies worked together to identify this group of fraudsters and to hold them responsible for their selfish, reprehensible actions preying on one of our most vulnerable population.”
“These individuals are accused of conspiring to scam dozens of unsuspecting victims all over the country, including right here in the Ocean State, out of millions of dollars, using a variety of fraudulent schemes that we traced right back to Nigeria,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Every day, the FBI and our law enforcement partners are working hard to put these fraudsters out of business. This case should serve as a reminder to view every contact with a stranger with skepticism and don’t trust anyone calling, texting or emailing with a deal that sounds too good to be true.”
An FBI investigation, with substantial assistance from U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the Tallmadge, Ohio, and Moscow, Idaho, Police Departments, determined that victims were instructed by scammers in Nigeria to wire cash to bank accounts or to mail payments in the form of cash or money orders to various mailing addresses controlled by scammers in Rhode Island. It is alleged that to conceal the source and location of the funds, members of the conspiracy moved the money through multiple banks and businesses in Rhode Island and Idaho, and elsewhere. Much of the proceeds were eventually sent on to Nigeria. Members of the conspiracy also used ill-gotten cash to purchase vehicles that were shipped to Nigeria.
The grand jury returned a superseding indictment on Friday charging Adetunji Abudu, 34, and Olabode Shaba, 33, of North Providence; Dotun Olawale Alonge, 44, and Oladipupu Shodipo, 41, of Providence; Samson Ikotun, 33, of East Providence; and Oluwaseyi Akintola, 35, of Moscow, Idaho with money laundering conspiracy and money laundering.
Oladipupu Shodipo was arrested this morning and appeared before U.S. District Court in Providence. He was released on unsecured bond.
Samson Ikotun, previously charged with conspiracy and money laundering, is detained in federal custody while awaiting trial. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment on September 9, 2020.
Olabode Shaba, previously charged with conspiracy and money laundering, is currently on home detention awaiting trial. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the superseding indictment on September 2, 2020.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Abudu, Alonge, and Akintola.
The ongoing investigation and return of a superseding indictment in this matter are announced by United States Attorney Aaron Weisman, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service Joseph W. Cronin, Tallmadge, Ohio, Police Chief Ronald Williams, and Moscow, Idaho, Police Chief James Fry.
A federal indictment is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John P. McAdams.
United States Attorney Aaron Weisman and FBI Boston Division Special Agent in Charge Joseph R. Bonavolonta thank United States Customs and Border Patrol; United States Secret Service; Rhode Island State Police; Providence, North Providence, East Providence, and Johnston, RI, Police Departments; Seekonk, Newton, Norfolk, and Hull, MA, Police Departments; New York State Police; Murphysboro, IL, Police Department; Greybull, WY, Police Department; Grand Island, NE, Police Department; Boca Raton, FL, Police Department; Lake County, FL, Sheriff’s Office; Brecknock Township, PA, Police Department; East Ridge, TN, Police Department; and San Angelo, TX, Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.
Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. If you are a victim or know a victim of elder fraud, you can call 1-877-FTC-HELP or go to ftc.gov/complaint. For downloadable Elder Abuse Prevention resources and for information about community outreach programs in Rhode Island, visit the United States Attorney’s Office’s Elder Justice Initiative web page at https://www.justice.gov/usao-ri/elder-justice