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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Tennessee

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Nigerian Citizen is Eleventh Person Sentenced in International Fraud Scheme

 

Memphis, TN – Benard Okorhi 42, of Lagos, Nigeria, has been sentenced to serve 75 months in federal prison for his role in an international fraud conspiracy that used compromised email accounts to steal from businesses and romance scams on internet dating sites to trick individuals into wiring money overseas. The scheme is estimated to have cost residents of the U.S. approximately $8 million dollars. The total scheme is estimated to have netted over $10 million worldwide during criminal enterprise’s five-year lifespan. Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr., announced the sentence today.

Evidence presented in court revealed that Okorhi and others, some U.S. citizens, some residents of Ghana and Nigeria--created fake profiles on online dating services to entice people looking for companionship into fraudulent relationships. Once the victim was fully involved, the scammers would develop elaborate storylines that always required the victim to send financial assistance to his or her beloved. The group also compromised the email networks of many businesses, redirecting wires intended to pay for services or goods to bank accounts under the control of the scammers. The money was subsequently moved through a number of bank accounts before ultimately being sent to Africa.

Okorhi, Maxwell Peter, and Babatunde Martins were arrested overseas and extradited to the United States for prosecution. Several of their alleged co-conspirators remain at large, including Dennis Miah, Sumaila Hardi Wumpini and Okorhi's brother Victor Okhori. Ayodeji Ojo has been arrested in Nigeria and is awaiting extradition.

On June 11, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H. Lipman sentenced Okorhi to 75 months in federal prison. The following individuals have been found guilty by a jury or entered pleas of guilty for their part in the scheme: Babatunde Martins of Nigeria, time served (approximately 3 and a half years); Maxwell Peter of Ghana, 55 months; Olufolajimi Abegunde of Atlanta and Nigeria, 78 months; Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso of California and Mexico, 31 months; Rashid Abdulai of New York and Ghana, 12 months;

Dana Brady of Washington, two years' supervised release: James Dean of Indiana, two years' probation; Marie Zamora of Utah, two years' probation; Edchae Caffey, 18 months' probation; and Ahmed Alimi, 14 months' probation.

The FBI led the investigation. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, as well as the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Accra, the FBI Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, the FBI’s Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and FBI’s International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center all provided significant support in this case, as did the U.S. Marshals Service, INTERPOL Washington, the INTERPOL Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Republic of Ghana’s Office of Attorney General, and Ghana’s Economic and Organized Crime Office.

Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with significant assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.

For more information or to view a list of aliases used by members of the conspiracy on dating websites and social media, visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdtn/victim-witness-program.

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Updated June 16, 2021