Eleven Nigerians have been indicted by the United States authorities for allegedly defrauding elderly Americans in romance scams.
Several of the defendants preyed on elderly victims who were widows or divorcees, according to the court document. Match.com, ChristianMingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish were used to find targets using fake names.
In an operation that took place on Wednesday morning, September 22, 11 people were arrested for a number of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder money.
They were among 35 people arrested for fraud by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) who allegedly committed scams worth $17 million.
Law enforcement revealed Friday that most of the defendants charged in this investigation were affiliated with a transnational organised crime syndicate based in Nigeria, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
The defendants are; David Animashaun, 38; Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40; Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51; Ijeoma Okoro, 31; Chukwemeka Orji, 36; Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35; Frederick Orji, 37; Uwadiale Esezobor, 36; Victor Idowu, 36; Afeez Abiola Alao, 37; and Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47.
Federal agents arrested them in DFW, Eastern District of Texas, Dallas, Lubbock, Los Angeles, and charged them in the Northern District of Texas with fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and mail & wire fraud conspiracy.
If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy counts and up to 10 years in federal prison on the money laundering conspiracy counts.
During a press conference announcing the charges, Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said the crimes were especially despicable since they relied not only on victims’ lack of internet savvy, but also on their isolation, loneliness, and sometimes their grief.
Over 20,000 Americans have lost more than $600 million in romance scams alone in 2020, according to the FBI.