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BREAKING NEWS: Seven Nigerian Nationals Indicted In Atlanta

Seven Nigerian nationals indicted for operating online romance fraudFraud In law, fraud is intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain (money or other assets), or to deprive a victim of a legal right. Fraud can violate civil law (e.g., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation) or criminal law (e.g., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by governmental authorities), or it may cause no loss of money, property, or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits, for example by obtaining a passport, travel document, or driver's license, or mortgage fraud, where the perpetrator may attempt to qualify for a mortgage by way of false statements. A fraud can also be a hoax, which is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a victim. scheme that cost victims nationwide over $1.5 million in losses

A federal grand jury has returned two indictments charging seven Nigerian nationals with federal charges ranging from wire fraud to identity theftIdentity Theft Identity theft is when someone uses another person's personal identifying information, without their permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In both the U.K. and the United States it is the theft of personally identifiable information. Identity theft deliberately uses someone else's identity as a method to gain financial advantages or obtain credit and other benefits, and perhaps to cause other person's loss. The person whose identity has been stolen may suffer adverse consequences, especially if they are falsely held responsible for the perpetrator's actions. Personally identifiable information generally includes a person's name, date of birth, social security number, driver's license number, bank account or credit card numbers, PINs, electronic signatures, fingerprints, passwords, or any other information that can be used to access a person's financial resources. arising from their operation of online romance fraud schemes that cost users of American dating websites over $1.5 million in losses.  Federal agents have arrested five of the seven defendants – two defendants remain at-large.  The indictments were partially unsealed earlier today.

“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.  “The defendants would allegedly spend weeks cultivating online relationships with their victims before defrauding them.  Some victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars from their retirement savings or inheritances.  Users of online dating websites should be aware of such scamsScams A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost. and should exercise extreme caution if asked for money by anyone online or over the phone.”

“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, IRSIRS The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the revenue & tax service of the United States federal government responsible for collecting taxes and administering the Internal Revenue Code (the main body of federal statutory tax law.) It is part of the Department of the Treasury and led by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, who is appointed to a five-year term by the President of the United States. The duties of the IRS include providing tax assistance to taxpayers; pursuing and resolving instances of erroneous or fraudulent tax filings; and overseeing various benefits programs. Visit www.IRS.gov to learn more. CriminalCriminal A criminal is any person who through a decision or act engages in a crime. This can be complicated, as many people break laws unknowingly, however, in our context, it is a person who makes a decision to engage in unlawful acts or to place themselves with others who do this. A criminal always has the ability to decide not to break the law, or if they initially engage in crime to stop doing it, but instead continues. Investigation. “The special agents of the IRS – Criminal Investigation are uniquely skilled in their ability to trace the criminal proceeds obtained as a result of online fraud, and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners in an effort to hold cybercriminals accountable for their actions.”

According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictments, and other information presented in court:  The defendants and other conspirators allegedly created phony dating profiles on popular online dating websites that described fictitious personas.  These profiles depicted photographs of attractive men and women that, in some instances, were public figures, such as government officials or models, taken from publically available websites.  The conspirators allegedly used their fake online personas to target users of online dating websites and falsely pose as potential paramours by expressing strong romantic interest in the targeted users.  These conspirators often targeted vulnerable individuals who possessed financial assets and in some cases spent weeks and months cultivating romantic relationships with them through online messaging, text messaging, and voice calls.

After gaining their affection and trust, the conspirators, posing as the fake paramours, allegedly provided the targeted users with elaborate false stories to cause the users to send them money through interstate wire or online transfers to bank accounts controlled by the conspirators.  The fake paramours often claimed to be 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 from targeted users, the conspirators quickly withdrew the funds and dispersed them into other accounts, domestically and abroad.

The indictments charge the defendants with a total of 60 counts of wire fraud, money launderingMoney laundering Money laundering is the illegal process of concealing the origins of money obtained illegally by passing it through a complex sequence of banking transfers or commercial transactions. Money laundering can be done through various mediums, leveraging a variety of payment vehicles, people and institutions., identity theft, and use of false passports. The defendants charged in the indictments are as follows:

  • Olu Victor Alonge, a/k/a Serge Damessi, a/k/a Didier Baraze, a/k/a Mobo Marcus Adeh, a/k/a Ayo Baraze, a/k/a Nicolas Soglo, 34, of Newnan, Georgia;
  • Ugochukwu Lazarus Onebunne, a/k/a Policap Tizhe, a/k/a Saheed Ademoha , 41, of Douglasville, Georgia;
  • Olajide Olalekan Adara, a/k/a Kelvin Mensah, 33, of Loganville, Georgia;
  • Joshua Adedeji Ipoade, 28, of Atlanta, Georgia;
  • Oladunni Temitope Oladipupo, 24, of Lynn, Massachusetts; and
  • Two other defendants are fugitives and their identities remain sealed.

Members of the public are reminded that the indictment only contains charges.  The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendants’ guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.

This case is being investigated by the U.S. Capitol Police and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys John S. Ghose and Sekret Sneed are prosecuting the case.

To view the actual case files go here: https://www.pacermonitor.com/public/case/24065902/USA_v_Adara_et_al