ATLANTA – A federal grand jury indicted seven Nigerian nationals with charges ranging from wire fraud to identity theft.
The charges in the two indictments come after an operation of online romance fraud schemes that authorities said cost users of American dating websites over $1.5 million in losses.
“The defendants in these cases allegedly used fake personas on online dating websites to trick lonely individuals into giving them money,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak.
According to Pak, federal agents arrested five of the seven defendants. The other two are still at large.
“The anonymity of the internet often makes a tempting playground for unscrupulous individuals who are simply waiting for an opportunity to steal from others,” said Thomas J. Holloman, III, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation.
The defendants and other conspirators allegedly created fake dating profiles on online websites. These profiles depicted photographs of attractive men and women that, in some instances, were public figures, such as government officials or models. Officials said the photos were taken from public web sites.
The conspirators are accused of using the fake accounts to target others on online dating websites and falsely express strong romantic interest. Often times, the victims targeted were individuals who possessed financial assets.
Pak said in some cases, the defendants would spend weeks and months cultivating romantic relationships with the victims through online messaging, text messaging, and voice calls. After gaining their affection and trust, the conspirators would allegedly create false stories to cause the users to send them money through interstate wire or online transfers
Agents said the defendants would come up with fake claims, such as working overseas and in need of money to travel back to the United States or to complete business deals abroad.
Once the conspirators received money they would allegedly withdraws the funds and disperse them into other accounts.
The indictments charge the defendants with a total of 60 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, identity theft, and use of false passports. Below is a list of some of the defendants:
- Olu Victor Alonge. Alonge also goes by Serge Damessi, Didier Baraze, Mobo Marcus Adeh, Ayo Baraze, Nicolas Soglo
- Ugochukwu Lazarus Onebunne. Onebunne also goes by Policap Tizhe, Saheed Ademoha,
- Olajide Olalekan Adara. Adara also goes by Kelvin Mensah
- Joshua Adedeji Ipoade
- Oladunni Temitope Oladipupo, 24, of Lynn, Massachusetts; and
Two other defendants are fugitives and their identities remain sealed.
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