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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 9, 2021

Army Reservist Sentenced To 40 Months In Prison For Participating In Money Laundering Scheme

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that EMEKA NNAWUBA, a/k/a “Benjamin Alabie,” who is a member of the United States Army Reserves, was sentenced yesterday to 40 months in prison for participating in a scheme to launder over $1 million in proceeds of romance fraud and business email compromise schemes perpetrated against dozens of victims.  NNAWUBA previously pled guilty before United States District Judge Katherine Polk Failla, who also imposed yesterday’s sentence. 

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said:  “Emeka Nnawuba laundered money for a scheme that trolled dating websites in order to steal money from the accounts of unsuspecting women.  He will now spend time in prison and be compelled to make restitution to the victims of the scheme.” 

According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment, court documents, and statements made in court:

From at least 2016 until 2018, NNAWUBA participated in a scheme to launder the proceeds of frauds perpetrated against dozens of victims.  Among other things, NNAWUBA used false identities and false passports to open bank accounts, received or attempted to receive more than $2 million in fraud proceeds, withdrew tens of thousands of dollars of fraud proceeds in cash, and transferred more than $1 million of fraud proceeds to bank accounts controlled by co-conspirators in an effort to conceal the source of funds. 

The funds laundered by NNAWUBA were procured principally by (a) romance scams, in which members of the scheme trolled dating websites to find unsuspecting women and stole their money on false pretenses, and (b) business compromise scams, in which members of the scheme impersonated individuals, professionals, or businesses in the course of otherwise ordinary financial transactions, and then fraudulently induced the counterparties to those transactions to transfer funds to bank accounts controlled and operated by NNAWUBA or other members of the scheme.

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NNAWUBA, 31, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, pled guilty to and was sentenced on one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit money laundering.  In addition to the prison term, NNAWUBA was sentenced to three years of supervised release and was ordered to forfeit $2,096,248.39 and pay $1,362,528.46 in restitution.

Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding investigative work of the U.S. Secret Service, and thanked Homeland Security Investigations for its assistance. 

The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Juliana N. Murray and Robert B. Sobelman are in charge of the prosecution. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Contact: 
James Margolin, Nicholas Biase (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
21-168
Updated July 9, 2021