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Press Release

Nigerian Scammer Nabbed By U.K. Authorities

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois

Was Wanted On Indictment Pending in Southern Illinois

A citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, wanted in connection with a recently unsealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Illinois, was arrested on Saturday, August 9, 2014, in London, England, Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today. Olayinka Ilumsa Sunmola, 31, of Lagos, Nigeria, was arrested by London's Metropolitan Police as he was about to board a British Airways flight at Heathrow airport bound for Johannesburg, South Africa, where he currently resides and conducts his activities.

Sunmola was indicted on November 20, 2013, in an eight count suppressed indictment charging him with various federal criminal offenses in connection with his operation of a romance scam targeting women in the United States. According to the indictment, Sunmola created several bogus online profiles on dating websites portraying himself as a U.S. citizen currently or formerly in the Armed Forces of the United States and temporarily doing business in South Africa. Over the course of several months, the indictment states, Sunmola cultivated a romantic relationship with each victim. He sent them flowers, stuffed animals, greeting cards and candy. His purpose was to lead each of his victims to believe that she was his one true love, his sole love interest, and the woman with whom he intended to spend the rest of his life, the indictment states. After successfully drawing women into a romantic relationship, Sunmola then began to manufacture phony emergencies requiring increasingly large amounts of money from his victims. He played upon each victim's romantic feelings and vulnerability and manipulated and groomed them for the purpose of bilking them of their cash, their assets and their credit worthiness. According to the indictment, Sunmola victimized least thirty women in the United States.

One victim described in the indictment was unwittingly drawn into a scheme involving counterfeit or stolen traveler's checks. As a result of her innocent involvement in cashing the checks for Sunmola, she was arrested by local police and jailed, charged with theft by deception and forgery, the indictment alleges. The indictment also alleges that another victim, a resident of the Southern District of Illinois, was induced to purchase a web cam and then pose in a sexually suggestive position. She learned only after it was too late that Sunmola was making a video recording. He thereafter threatened to post the sexually suggestive photos on the internet. According to the indictment, Sunmola told the woman that by the time he was done with her she would want to kill herself. He pledged to ruin her life if she did not continue to send him the money he demanded.

Sunmola was charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and extortion. If convicted of all offenses, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 127 years, a fine of $100,000 on each of the eight counts of the indictment, and five years of supervised release. A trial date will be set after extradition proceedings, which could take several months, have been completed.

The case was investigated by the St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The St. Louis Resident Agency of Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Fairview Heights office of U.S. Secret Service assisted in the investigation. The Illinois Attorney General's Office referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office for investigation as part of an ongoing partnership between the two offices to identify, investigate and prosecute international scammers who prey upon Illinois residents. This prosecution is also part of a larger initiative with the Chicago Office of the Federal Trade Commission to target romance scammers.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys Bruce Reppert and Nathan Stump.

An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant that is comprised of the essential facts constituting the offense charged. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

Updated February 19, 2015