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Press Release

Maryland Man Ordered to Pay $90,000 for Role in Romance Fraud Scheme

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

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Oluwabamishe Awolesi, 29, of Beltsville, Maryland, was sentenced today to five years of federal probation, including 60 days on home detention, and ordered to pay $90,000 in restitution for receipt of stolen money.

According to court documents and statements made in court, Awolesi, also known as Oluwabamise Johnson, admitted to his role in a romance fraud scheme that defrauded more than 200 victims, many of them elderly, of at least $2.5 million. One victim of the scheme transferred a total of $90,000 into Awolesi’s checking account in September 2018. Awolesi kept $12,000 of the total and forwarded the rest to others involved in the scheme.

Awolesi, a citizen of Nigeria and the United States, lived in Huntington during his involvement in the scheme. Three indictments targeting the scheme allege that from 2016 to 2020, multiple defendants participated in a series of romance and other online scams designed to coerce vulnerable victims into sending money to various bank accounts controlled by them. The indictments describe romance scams as online schemes that target individuals looking for romantic partners, friendship, and other close personal and business relationships on dating websites and other social media platforms. Members of the fraud and money laundering conspiracy created profiles using fictitious names, locations, and images which allowed them to cultivate relationships with the victims. To carry out the schemes alleged in the indictments, victims were often led to believe that they were in relationships with U.S. residents working abroad. However, the investigation revealed that the individuals the victims viewed as their romantic partners were false personas created by members of the fraud and money laundering conspiracies.

United States Attorney Will Thompson 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 imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorneys Kathleen Robeson and R. Gregory McVey prosecuted the case.

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 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday-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-68.







Updated September 20, 2022

Elder Justice