Nigerian National Sentenced to 14 Years in Federal Prison for Fraud and Money Laundering Schemes
In Austin today, a federal judge sentenced 42-year-old Nigerian National and Canadian resident Ochuko Sylvester Eruotor to 168 months in federal prison for his leadership role in multi-million dollar fraud and money laundering schemes, announced United States Attorney John F. Bash and Special Agent in Charge Shane M. Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio Division; Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Goss, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Houston Field Office; and, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Houston Division.
In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Sam Sparks ordered Eruotor to pay restitution in the amount of $1,672,805.51 and be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.
“If you are a foreign national contemplating defrauding vulnerable Americans from abroad, know this: We will identify you, find you, bring you here, prosecute you, and punish you. Your location abroad will not save you,” said U.S. Attorney John F. Bash.
In December 2017, Eruotor was extradited from Germany to the United States after being arrested with assistance from Interpol. On February 1, 2018, Eruotor pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in furtherance of the fraudulent schemes.
Court documents showed that this investigation targeted a money laundering network that laundered the proceeds of various fraud schemes perpetrated against U.S. victims by scammers based in Canada, Nigeria, and the United States. The schemes included: “grandson-in-jail” frauds over the phone targeting elderly victims; fake investment scams; business email compromise scams; Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) tax filing scams; and, romance victim scams.
The money launderers opened bank accounts, sometimes using fraudulent passports in false names, or hired others to open bank accounts in order to facilitate their scheme. Those U.S.-based bank accounts would receive the fraudulently obtained funds from the victims. The U.S.-based conspirators quickly withdrew the money from the bank accounts with a portion of the fraud proceeds kept as a fee. Then the remainder of the funds were sent to Canada or Nigeria. To date, law enforcement has identified in excess of $3.5 million dollars of fraud proceeds from hundreds of victims laundered by the conspiracy.
“Financial crimes and identity theft have a devastating effect on the victims and our financial institutions. HSI and its enforcement partners will continue to do everything possible to stop this kind of fraud,” said Shane Folden, Special Agent in Charge for HSI San Antonio. “The defendant exploited people for his own personal gain.”
“The Postal Inspection Service takes it very seriously when the U.S. Mail is used to defraud innocent American citizens, especially our elderly. The sentence handed down today is the result of our ongoing mission to prosecute those who commit these types of fraud schemes. We would like to thank all of the other agencies that worked so diligently to bring justice to the victims of this criminal enterprise,” said USPIS Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez.
Eruotor is the eighth defendant to be convicted and sentenced to federal prison as a result of this investigation. Other prison terms handed down range from ten months to 108 months.
Agents with HSI, IRS-CI, and UPSIS investigated this case. The U.S. Marshals Service and D.O.J.’s Office of International Affairs provided valuable assistance with respect to the extradition. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael C. Galdo prosecuted this case on behalf of the Government.