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Press Release

Columbus man sentenced to 5 years in prison for laundering more than $2 million from online romance fraud scams

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A Columbus man was sentenced in U.S. District Court today to 60 months in prison for laundering $2.3 million of proceeds generated by online romance fraud scams.

Maximus Okwudili Adiele, 49, of Columbus, was born in Nigeria and immigrated to the United States in 2010. He became a naturalized citizen in 2015.

According to court documents, from January 2017 until 2020, Adiele participated in a money laundering conspiracy, laundering $2.3 million for online romance fraud scammers into 12 different bank accounts that he controlled.

Adiele used his international car dealing business to conduct financial and wire transactions to individuals in Nigeria.

The conspiracy involved unidentified perpetrators who fabricated online relationships with men and women throughout the United States to manipulate the victims into sending money to one of Adiele’s bank accounts. Many of the victims of the scam were elderly individuals who lost their life savings. In total, Adiele laundered the money from at least 17 victims.

Adiele wired to Nigeria nearly $1.2 million of the $2.3 million he received. The defendant failed to report additional income to the IRS for tax years 2017, 2018 and 2019, causing a loss to the IRS in the amount of $64,242.

As part of his sentence, Adiele was ordered to pay $967,669.98 in restitution to the individual victims and $64, 242 to the IRS.

Adiele was charged by a bill of information and pleaded guilty in November 2022 to money laundering and submitting a false tax return.

Kenneth L. Parker, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio; Lesley Allison, Inspector in Charge, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS); and Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) announced the sentence imposed by Senior U.S. District Court Judge James L. Graham. Assistant United States Attorneys Brenda S. Shoemaker and David J. Twombly are representing the United States in this case.

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Updated August 9, 2023

Financial Fraud