35 Indicted in Romance Scheme That Siphoned $117 Million From Older Adults: DOJ
Federal investigators with the Department of Justice say 35 people in North Texas are accused of conducting romance schemes to defraud and steal money from older adult Americans.
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Northern and Eastern Districts of Texas and the FBI announced a multi-year investigation into a wide-ranging criminal enterprise operating out of North Texas.
Investigators announced indictments for criminal charges against 35 people accused of wire fraud and money laundering as part of a very sophisticated scheme that stole more than $17 million from more than 100 people nationwide.
According to court documents, these defendants allegedly preyed on older victims, many of whom were widowed or divorced. They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites like Match.com, ChistianMingle, JSwipe, and PlentyofFish, searching for targets.
Conspirators would pose as an interested partner and then build a level of trust with their target before eventually sharing a sob story that ended with them needing a large sum of money.
Crimes like these are especially despicable because they rely not only on victims’ lack of internet savvy, but also, their isolation, their loneliness, and sometimes their grief,” acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said at a press conference announcing the charges. “The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people.”
In many cases, investigators said, the alleged thieves would then siphon thousands of dollars from their victim’s bank accounts.
“Once they depleted the savings they vanished into thin air,” said Shah.
Investigators said the funds are taken from the victims eventually made their way to accounts located in Africa and Asia.
Shah added that romance scams are often difficult to prosecute because victims are often embarrassed, feel duped, and don’t want to come forward. Still, they encourage victims to come forward and reassure them that the scams are more common than one might think — more than 20,000 people lost $600 million in romance scams in 2020.
Eleven of the arrests were made in the Northern District of Texas while 24 arrests were made in the Eastern District of Texas.
Those charged in the Northern District of Texas include:
David Animashaun, 38 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51 – arrested in the Eastern District of Texas, charged by the
Northern District of Texas wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
Ijeoma Okoro, 31 – arrested in DFW, wire fraud conspiracy fraud, money laundering conspiracy
Chukwemeka Orji, 36 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35 – arrested in DFW, charged with wire fraud conspiracy
Frederick Orji, 37 – arrested in Dallas, charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
Uwadiale Esezobor, 36 – arrested in Lubbock, charged with mail & wire fraud conspiracy
Victor Idowu, 36 – arrested in Los Angeles, charged with mail & wire fraud conspiracy
Afeez Abiola Alao, 37 – wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy
Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47 – wire fraud conspiracy
All of the defendants named are innocent until proven guilty. If convicted, the defendants face up 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.