ATLANTA, Ga. — A Lynn resident was one of seven Nigerian nationals indicted last week on federal charges for operating an online romance fraud scheme that cost victims, or users of American dating websites nationwide, more than $1.5 million in losses.
The federal charges range from wire fraud to identity theft. Five of the seven defendants have been arrested, while two remain at-large.
The indictments charge the defendants with a total of 60 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, identity theft and use of false passports.
- Oladunni Temitope Oladipupo, 24, of Lynn
- Olu Victor Alonge aka Serge Damessi aka Didier Baraze aka Mobo Marcus Adeh aka Ayo Baraze aka Nicolas Soglo, 34, of Newnan, GA
- Ugochukwu Lazarus Onebunne aka Policap Tizhe aka Saheed Ademoha, 41, of Douglasville, GA
- Olajide Olalekan Adara aka Kelvin Mensah, 33, of Loganville, GA
- Joshua Adedeji Ipoade, 28, of Atlanta, GA
- Two other defendants are fugitives and their identities remain sealed
Prosecutors said 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 months cultivating romantic relationships with them through online messaging, text messaging, and voice calls, prosecutors said.
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, prosecutors said.
“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 scams 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, IRS Criminal 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.”