TULSA, Okla. (KFOR) - A Nigerian romance scam operation could end with prison sentences for 10 men, six of whom are from Norman.
Seven of 10 suspects have been charged with conspiring to launder illegal proceeds that were obtained as a result of Nigerian romance scam operations, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Oklahoma.
Indictments were handed down by a federal grand jury in October. That indictment was unsealed on Wednesday after seven suspects were apprehended in early morning operations executed by the FBI in three states, according to the news release.
Five suspects were arrested in Norman, one was captured in Brooklyn, N.Y., and one was apprehended in Long Beach, Calif. The three other defendants are still on the loose, the news release states.
"These individuals used a conspiracy involving romance scams to prey on dozens of victims across the country, many of whom experienced significant financial loss. Today's arrests demonstrate that the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not allow criminals to defraud innocent Americans," said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the Oklahoma City Field Office.
The co-conspirators concealed romance scam operation proceeds by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that they opened using fraudulent forms of identification to hide their identities and the source of the funds, the news release states.
Investigators identified at least three victims of the alleged scams in Seminole, Fla., Centerville, Ohio, and Pryor, Okla.
The co-conspirators are identified as the following men:
- Afeez Olajide Adebara, 34, U.S. citizen residing in Norman
- Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, U.S. citizen residing in Norman and Brooklyn
- Joshua Nnandom Ditep, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman
- Paul Usoro, 25, Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman
- Chibuzo Godwin Obiefuna Jr, 26, U.S. citizen residing in Norman and Long Beach, California;
- Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 23, citizen of Nigeria, residing in Norman
- Tobiloba Kehinde, 27, citizen of Nigeria residing in Norman
- First and last name unknown #1, maintained an address in Brooklyn
- First and last name unknown #2, maintained an address in Dallas, Texas
- First and last name unknown #3, maintained an address in Dallas
The co-conspirators are alleged to have coordinated with unknown individuals in Nigeria who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms to defraud victims, according to the news release.
The Nigerian accomplices told the victims they were U.S. residents working abroad, the news release states.
"At the early stages of the 'romance,' victims would receive requests for relatively small gifts, such as iTunes gift cards and cell phones. As the relationships continued, the requests would develop into increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete overseas projects or to return to the United States," the news release states.
The Nigerian romance scammers told the victims to send funds to the U.S. suspects’ bank accounts. They assured the victims that the money would be allocated as needed, the new release states.
After the victims sent the funds, the U.S.-based suspects funneled the money to accounts that they operated, according to the news release.
"These accounts were allegedly opened under various aliases in order to obscure the source of the fraudulently obtained funds. In a further attempt to conceal the source of the money, the co-conspirators also purchased salvaged vehicles and car parts to export overseas, usually to Nigeria," the news release states.