SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Nelly Idowu, 39, of Provo, Utah, was sentenced today to six years’ imprisonment followed by three years’ supervised release, after a federal jury found her guilty of one count of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering in an online romance scam. Idowu is one of four defendants sentenced in a two-year scheme that cost victims over $6 million.
According to the evidence presented at trial, from 2017 to 2019 Idowu participated in an online romance scheme that involved creating fake online dating profiles to befriend and romance victims. Idowu, and her co-conspirators, led these victims to believe the fake persona they were engaging with had an urgent and financial need, none of which were legitimate. The victims targeted were mostly widowed and divorced women over 65-years-old. These significant life changes often occurred very late in life after many years of being accustomed to the company and support of a partner. Many victims suffered significant financial loss in the final years of life, with some losing their entire life savings.
Codefendants Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, and Julius Omene Fredrick were each previously convicted by guilty plea to a money laundering conspiracy. Adesotu was sentenced to a term of 36 months’ imprisonment, Fredrick was sentenced to a term of 46 months’ imprisonment, and Chukwu was sentenced to a term of 12 months’ imprisonment. Each defendant was ordered by the court to pay $6,444,787.16 in restitution jointly for the victims.
“Idowu and her co-conspirators preyed on unsuspecting and vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins of the District of Utah. “The defendants gained their trust and convinced them to send large sums of money, leaving many of the victims in financial despair. My office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to prosecute these online scams, and seek justice for the victims.”
“Scammers like Idowu know exactly how to prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities, and sadly, the financial and emotional consequences can be absolutely devastating,” said Shohini Sinha, Special Agent in Charge of the Salt Lake City FBI. “The FBI is committed to investigating these perpetrators and continuously works to raise awareness about romance scams. Think twice before you share personal information online, be wary of online suitors who are quick to establish a relationship and gain your trust, and don’t send money to someone you’ve never met. If you think you’re a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.”
The investigation was conducted by the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office, Provo Resident Agency.
Assistant United States Attorneys Carl LeSueur and Mark Woolf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah prosecuted the case.
The FBI encourages those engaged in online relationships to review and become familiar with information about romance scams on its website FBI.gov. Additionally, if you or someone you know has been a victim of elder fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline 833-FRAUD-11 or 833-372-8311 and online at the Office for Victims of Crime.