A large-scale, international conspiracy has hit the U.S. and the victims of the mail and wire fraud were romantic interests found in online dating sites.
Seven individuals pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to perpetrate identity theft, access device fraud, and theft of government funds. All seven perpetrators are African citizens.
The United States Justice Department announced Friday, Dec 16th that these schemes involved using stolen credit card numbers to buy electronic equipment and other goods. Stolen personal identification information was also used to take over victims’ bank accounts in order to create money orders and cash counterfeit checks.
The Justice Department reports the following defendants’ names: Rhulane Fionah Hlungwane, 26, of South Africa; Gabriel Oludare Adeniran, 30, of Nigeria; Olusegun Seyi Shonekan, 34, of Nigeria; Taofeeq Olamilekan Oyelade, 32, of Nigeria; Olufemi Obaro Omoraka, 27, of Nigeria; Anuoluwapo Segun Adegbemigun, 40, of Nigeria; and Adekunle Adefila, 41, of Nigeria.
According to the plea agreements, the defendants and their co-conspirators carried out numerous internet-based fraud schemes dating back to 2011. As a whole, the conspiracy diverted tens of millions of dollars for personal use.
The defendants acknowledged that to carry through with their schemes they recruited the support of U.S. citizens via “romance scams,” in which the perpetrator would typically use a false identity on a dating website to create a romantic relationship with an unsuspecting victim.
Once the perpetrators gained the affection and trust of victims, they would convince him or her to send them cash to meet critical needs, disclose personal financial information, or help carry out fraud schemes, themselves.
The defendants admitted that they laundered money using the financial services of Western Union and MoneyGram.
The Justice Department’s mission to combat transnational organized crime is prosecuting the case. Any victim of online fraud should report suspected criminal activity using the HSI Tip Form: www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
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