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Press Release

Former Marshall University Student Pleads Guilty to Role in Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme

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

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – One of eight individuals indicted in April 2021 in connection with a large fraud and money laundering scheme pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. 

According to court documents and statements made in connection with the plea hearing, Romello Thorpe, 25, of Washington, D.C., was involved from at least September 2019 to January 2, 2020, with Kenneth Emeni, John Nassy, Kenneth Ogudu, Oluwagbenga Harrison, Ouluwabamishe Awolesi, and others in a money laundering conspiracy that took place in Huntington, West Virginia and elsewhere.  Thorpe was a student at Marshall University and living in Huntington at the time he conspired to commit money laundering.  As part of the scheme, co-conspirators created online false personas and contacted victims via email, text messaging or online dating and social media websites in order to induce the victims into believing they were in a romantic relationship, friendship or business relationship with various false personas. The victims were persuaded to send money for a variety of false and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of the false personas.  Thorpe admitted that his role in the conspiracy was to let victims transfer money to his bank account and that he knew the funds being deposited into his account were from unlawful activity.  Thorpe further admitted that after the victims’ funds were deposited into his account, he kept some of the money for himself and forwarded some of the money to his co-conspirators via wire transfers or Zelle.  Thorpe admitted that he obtained funds from at least six different fraud victims during the money laundering conspiracy.

Thorpe faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced on November 22, 2021.  As part of  his plea agreement, Thorpe agreed to pay $69,850 in restitution.

Acting United States Attorney Lisa G. Johnston made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), the West Virginia State Police, and the South Charleston Police Department.

United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing.  Assistant United States Attorney Kathleen Robeson is handling the prosecution.

The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams at

If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).  This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps.  Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis.  Reporting is the first step.  Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses.  The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern TimeMonday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.   

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-0068 (Emeni, et al).






Updated August 17, 2021