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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Austin-Based Nigerian Money Launderer Sentenced to Federal Prison for Romance Scams

Woman Took Her Own Life upon Learning She Was Victim of Romance Scam

In Austin today, a federal judge sentenced 34–year-old Nigerian National Kingsley Otuya to 135 months in federal prison for a million dollar plus fraud and money laundering scheme involving romance scams announced United States Attorney John F. Bash and Special Agent in Charge Shane M. Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio Division.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Robert Pitman ordered Otuya to pay restitution in the amount of $966,617.31 and be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.    

“This case brutally illustrates how fraud schemes hurt victims not only financially but also emotionally,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Bash.  “We will remain steadfast in our efforts to protect Americans from transnational criminal conspiracies.”

In April 2018, Otuya pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  According to court records, authorities began investigating Otuya as part of a series of investigations based in Austin into the activities of West African Fraud Schemes.  In Otuya’s case, the funds were primarily derived from romance and investment fraud schemes.  The conspiracy scammed American citizens out of over $1 million.  Otuya acted as a “catcher,” one of the individuals responsible for quickly withdrawing fraudulently obtained funds from bank accounts where the victims deposited their funds.  Otuya used fake passports to open nine different bank accounts in false names in Austin and often structured his withdrawals to amounts under $10,000 so as to avoid bank reporting requirements.  Otuya would then send the money to coconspirators before the victim attempted to recover their funds.  Otuya was paid a fee for the fraud proceeds that flowed through his accounts.  Court records indicated that multiple victims faced serious financial hardship as a result of these schemes and that one of the victims who sent money to Otuya took her own life after losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and being emotionally devastated by a romance scam. Court records indicate that Otuya faces likely deportation back to Nigeria as a result of this conviction.

“Today’s sentence shows how aggressively HSI investigates financial crimes, and its commitment to bring to justice those who perpetrate them,” said Special Agent in Charge Folden. “The people behind these transnational fraud schemes robbed people of more than $1 million, and our special agents are committed to protect the public and the integrity of our financial system.”

HSI agents conducted this investigation along with assistance from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)--Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and U.S. State Department Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).  Assistant United States Attorney Michael C. Galdo prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government. 

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Component(s): 
Updated July 17, 2018