A New York man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court for his role as a money launderer in a Nigerian romance scam that defrauded multiple victims, including elderly victims, across the United States and netted at least $1.5 million, announced U.S. Attorney Trent Shores.
Oluwaseun John Ogundele, 30, formerly of Norman, Oklahoma, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering before U.S. District Court Judge Gregory K. Frizzell.
“United States Attorney General William Barr directed U.S. Attorneys to hold accountable the vast criminal element targeting America’s seniors. My office heard him loud and clear and worked with the FBI to take down a Nigerian romance fraud scheme. It is fitting that Mr. Ogundele’s conviction comes today as we recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Con artists who cheat elder Americans out of their life savings will get a one way ticket to federal prison. I encourage victims to speak up and report these crimes to help us stop these fraudsters.”
“Mr. Ogundele and his co-conspirators used online romance scams to prey upon dozens of victims across the country, many of whom experienced significant financial loss. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the FBI and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate criminals who defraud innocent Americans,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the Oklahoma City Field Office.
In his plea agreement, Ogundele admitted that between 2015 and November 2019, together with co-conspirators, he knowingly concealed the proceeds of a romance scam operation by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that were opened under various aliases using fake passports and other fraudulent identification documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of the co-conspirators. Thereafter, Ogundele took further steps to conceal the source of the funds, took a commission for himself, and directed the remainder of the funds back to the online romance scammers in Nigeria, including in the form of vehicles and vehicle parts.
Ogundele coordinated with overseas co-conspirators who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms with the intent to defraud victims. Ogundele opened multiple accounts using fraudulent identities then provided the account and routing numbers to the overseas co-conspirators. The overseas co-conspirators told victims they were U.S. residents working abroad. In fact, the investigation revealed that these overseas co-conspirators were located in Nigeria. As these online “relationships” continued, the overseas co-conspirators’ requests would develop into increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete business projects or to return to the United States. The victims were directed by the overseas co-conspirators to send funds to Ogundele and others’ bank accounts, assuring the victims that he would allocate the money as needed.
Ogundele was charged along with nine co-defendants, including: Afeez Olajide Adebara, 35, U.S. citizen residing in Norman; Joshua Naandom 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 Long Beach, California; Tobiloba Kehinde, 28, Nigerian citizen residing in Norman; Jamiu Ibukun Adedeji, 24, Nigerian citizen, residing in Norman; First and last name unknown #1, who maintained an address in Brooklyn, New York; First and last name unknown #2, who maintained an address in Dallas, Texas; and First and last name unknown #3, who maintained an address in Dallas, Texas. Adebara, Ditep, Usoro, Obiefuna, Kehinde, and Adedeji await trial while the three additional co-defendants remain fugitives. An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case is part of an ongoing national effort by the Department of Justice to address online fraud schemes often based out of Nigeria that target U.S. citizens. The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/.
The FBI’s Oklahoma City Field Office conducted the investigation with assistance from the FBI’s San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York Field Offices. Trial Attorneys Babasijibomi Moore and David Stier of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nassar of the Northern District of Oklahoma are prosecuting the case.
The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.