Man Jailed After Sending Romance Scam Proceeds To Nigerian Family From US
A 40-year-old Nigerian, Charles Obije, is facing time in US prison for his role in an online romance scheme targeting elderly women.
According to Duluth News Tribune, Obije pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit international money laundering in US District Court in St. Paul last week.
The online media added that Obije helped launder more than $350,000 in stolen proceeds from online romance scams and other schemes, forwarding the money to family in Nigeria.
The suspect reportedly received substantial funds from no fewer than three older women who were duped into believing they were in long-running online relationships with a man, despite never meeting him in person.
The women were convinced to make numerous wire transfers — sometimes taking loans or second mortgages — to help the fictitious man with a variety of contrived expenses.
Federal prosecutors noted that Obije didn’t carry out the ploys himself. Nevertheless, he was effective in presenting local bank accounts for electronic transfers. Subsequently, he dispatched most of the embezzled money to his family in Nigeria, particularly to his father and brother.
On December 28, while trying to board a flight to Amsterdam, Obije was taken into custody at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It was only a few weeks prior that he had a meeting with the US Attorney’s Office to discuss his status as a subject of the inquiry and the likelihood of entering into a plea deal.
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At the Lincoln Park Resource Centre, where he was employed as programme director, the defendant had been working after serving as a social worker at St. Louis County. Records showed that he had put in unsuccessful attempts to secure a position in the Duluth School Board, first in 2015 and again in 2019. According to the report, that’s the defendant’s background.
Pending sentencing, Obije is out on bond, but there could be prison time in the future.
Using fake identities, the scammers in Nigeria preyed on US citizens seeking companionship through dating sites and social media. They stole others’ photos, names, and even personas to establish relationships with unsuspecting people. These scams were aimed at those seeking romantic partners or friendship.
In December 2016, an officer in the US Army who claimed he was qualified for retirement benefits but received his check in Canada connected online with a Californian lady aged 69. She told investigators about this recently.
To get the check through customs, he asked for more money after requesting $100 from the victim. The profile he used belonged to a legitimate Army member who was deployed at the time, as later uncovered by the Internal Revenue Service agents.
Between September 2017 and June 2019, the victim, who secured a loan against her house, transferred a total of $199,475 to accounts under the control of Obije and his associates. Agents tracked the transactions and discovered that the funds were frequently received by Obije, who promptly transferred the earnings to Nigeria under various labels, including “family expenses.”
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After her husband of 43 years passed away, a 71-year-old woman from California was targeted by a scam. Although she had never met the man who went by the name “Morris Walter” on an internet dating platform, she told authorities she engaged in daily conversations with him and felt that they were in a committed relationship.
In the San Francisco area resides “Walter,” who claims to be an engineer for an oil company. He stated he was working on a rig overseas and required funds to cover the storage fees of oil barrels and to leave the vessel. He explained that their future could start with the aid of financial support. The woman received this information from him.
The victim started by purchasing approximately $1,800 in iTunes gift cards, eventually agreeing to wire large sums. She was directed to send funds to several people, including Obije. Investigators found that he received at least $20,000 from the woman in November and December 2018, forwarding $17,030 of it to his father in Lagos, Nigeria.
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The woman told agents she eventually cut off contact after “Walter” called her at one point and threatened to have a friend hack into her accounts if she did not send more money.
A 68-year-old Oregon victim said she communicated via phone, email and text message with a “Ken Ebe,” who said he was from the United Kingdom and worked at the Nigerian Petroleum Co. She believed she was engaged to the fictitious man, who was arranging for them to get married.
The woman said “Ebe” asked her for help in securing the release of $10 million he had stored in a vault, promising that the money would be transferred to her if she would pay the taxes and fees. Someone claiming to be an Interpol agent contacted her, providing instructions to wire the money to Twin Ports Consulting, which investigators learned was a company solely registered to Obije.
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The victim sent $66,000 to the company in April 2018 — $53,070 of which Obije promptly sent to Nigeria. The woman, who was contacted by various others claiming to be an attorney in Nigeria and a banker who was arrested in the US, ended up losing more than $250,000 in total.
“When she tried to stop sending money, individuals involved in the scam threatened her and said they were watching her house and monitoring her phone calls,” the complaint states, adding that the victim had to take out a second mortgage on her house, postpone retirement and experience deteriorating health as she has been unable to afford medical treatment.
Obije, after being arrested while trying to leave the country, subsequently reached a plea agreement with prosecutors and waived an indictment process.
“To conceal the true source and destination of the proceeds, Obije and other conspirators allowed proceeds of the scheme to be deposited into US bank accounts in their names,” the agreement states. “Using these accounts, Obije and others withdrew cash and made subsequent transfers to co-conspirators, including co-conspirators located in Nigeria, to disguise the nature, source, ownership and control of the fraud proceeds.”
In total, prosecutors said Obije helped launder $356,671 from various scams, which also included business email compromise schemes. He said he did not inquire about the source of the money but “knew or should have known that the funds were the proceeds of fraud.”
Only one other party in the scheme has been publicly identified: Obije’s ex-sister-in-law, Ijeoma Chantavong, who pleaded guilty in October to the same charge and basic factual allegations.
The US Attorney’s Office indicated it would seek a prison term of up to 30 months for Obije, while he was free to “recommend whatever sentence he deems appropriate.” Judge Donovan Frank did not immediately schedule a sentencing date.
Hughes confirmed that Obije was a US citizen, which indicated he would not face deportation.
Obije is still listed as the programme director on the website of the Lincoln Park Resource Centre, which provides transitional housing, free clothing, a community garden and other services at the Seafarers Center. The Rev. Doug Paulson, Seafarers director, could not be reached Thursday.
Obije had a 2004 conviction in Ashland County for misdemeanour theft of a credit card.
Convicted Nigerian Woman Extradited To U.S. Over Illicit Payment
A convicted Nigerian fugitive, Florence Enwerim Onyegbu, was on Thursday, extradited to the United States of America, where she is wanted to answer to criminal charges bordering on the violation of the U.S. law involving the offer and payment of illegal remuneration in a health care matter.
Onyegbu ‘sextradition was coordinated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, following a request by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, seeking assistance for her apprehension.
The EFCC said its investigations revealed that she had changed her name from Florence E. Onyegbu to Janet Boi in an attempt to remain hidden.
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But that she however ran out of luck when operatives of the EFCC swooped on her at her residence in the Ojodu area of Lagos on February 21, 2022.
The anti-graft agency said that upon her arrest, a national identity card with the name Janet Boi as well as a Texas driver’s license with the name Florence Enwerim Onyegbu were found on her.
The Commission, on March 22, 2023, handed over Onyegbu to the FBI, following an extradition order granted by Justice Z.B. Abubakar of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on December 2, 2022.
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It will be recalled that Onyegbu’s travails began after she was arrested on February 12, 2011 in the U.S. and subsequently sentenced to 46 months imprisonment, following a guilty plea , over the violation of the U.S. law bordering on the offer and payment of illegal remuneration in a health care matter.
Although she was ordered to report for service of her sentence on April 4, 2011, she failed to surrender on that date.
Consequently, she was further charged with failure to surrender for service of sentence in violation of U.S. Law on March 4, 2013.
Man To Die By Hanging For Robbery, Kidnapping
A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on Thursday sentenced four men to death by hanging for armed robbery and kidnapping of a woman, Mrs Gloria Emole.
The convicts are Victor Chukwunonso, Ifeanyi Maduaka, Obinna Nwankwo and Richard Nwabueze.
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo held that the prosecution was able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.
The convicts were said to have committed the offences on November 19, 2012, at about 8.30 am.
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They were arraigned on July 13, 2013, and were remanded in prison custody.
The convicts were arraigned on a three-count bordering on conspiracy, armed robbery and kidnapping preferred against them by Lagos State.
The state Director of Public Prosecution, Dr Babajide Martins, had told the court during their arraignment that they kidnapped the victim who was about to leave her house at 7, Unity Street, Ogudu GRA, Lagos.
According to the prosecutor, the offences committed are contrary to and punishable under Sections 297,285 (2) a, and 291, of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2015.
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The victim was later released on November 22, 2012, after a ransom of $70,000 was paid by her husband.
“The defendants are sentenced to 10 years for the first count of conspiracy. They are hereby sentenced to death by hanging for the second count of armed robbery and sentenced to 21 years imprisonment for the third count of kidnapping,” Justice Lawal-Akapo held.
Man Bags Life Jail For Defiling Colleague’s Nine-year-old Daughter
An Ikeja Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Court in Lagos on Thursday sentenced a 51-year-old man, Ubregbo Parmer, to life imprisonment for defiling his colleague’s nine-year-old daughter.
Justice Abiola Soladoye sentenced the convict after finding him guilty of the offence of defilement.
The judge held that the prosecution sufficiently proved the charge of defilement against the convict.
Justice Soladoye stated that the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses, the victim and a medical doctor showed that the convict committed the offence.
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The judge said, “The evidence of the respective prosecution witnesses established the ingredients of the offence against the defendant who was properly identified by the victim.
“The victim gave a vivid and gory account of her ordeal in the hands of the defendant.
“I hereby find him guilty as charged of the one-count charge of defilement and he is hereby sentenced to life imprisonment.
“The defendant should have his name registered in the sexual offence register as maintained by Lagos State.”
The judge berated the victim’s mother for being negligent in her care and allowing her child to be taken away by her male colleague, without supervision.
“The need for proper and good parentage cannot be undermined at this age and time where defilement and rape are the order of the day.
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“Parents should be alive to their responsibilities,” Justice Soladoye said.
The state counsel, Mrs Olufunke Adegoke, called two witnesses and tendered two exhibits during the trial while the defendant testified as the sole witness in his defence.
Adegoke said the victim’s mother brought her daughter to the office and left her to attend to other things when the convict quickly removed her pant and had sexual intercourse with her.
She said the convict committed the offence on December 10, 2019, in Magodo, Lagos, The PUNCH reports.
According to her, the offence contravenes the provisions of Section 137 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2015.
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