U.S. Manager of Money Laundering Ring in a Nigerian Romance Scam Sentenced

An Oklahoma man was sentenced today in the Northern District of Oklahoma to four years in prison for managing a group of money launderers in an online Nigerian romance scam that defrauded multiple victims, including elderly individuals across the United States, and caused losses of at least $2.5 million. 

The Court further ordered Afeez Adebara, 36, of Norman, to pay $500, 740 in restitution to the victims of the crime.

“Afeez Adebara led a group of money launderers who bilked unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned retirement and savings accounts as part of a Nigerian romance scam,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson. “This con artist and his cohorts have been brought to justice thanks to the work of the FBI and federal prosecutors Babasijibomi Moore and Chris Nassar.”

Adebara pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering on Nov. 3, 2020. According to court documents and testimony, between 2017 and November 2019, Adebara and co-conspirators 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, Adebara 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.   

Adebara coordinated with overseas co-conspirators who had assumed false identities on online dating websites and social media platforms to defraud victims. Adebara opened multiple accounts using fraudulent identities, then provided the account and routing numbers to the overseas co-conspirators. The overseas co-conspirators told victims that they were U.S. residents working or traveling abroad. As the online relationships continued, the overseas co-conspirators requested increasingly larger sums of money, with the claimed purpose that the funds were needed to complete business projects or for them to return to the United States. The victims were directed by the overseas co-conspirators to send funds to certain bank accounts, with assurance that the money would purportedly be allocated as needed.

Previously, John Ogundele, 32, of New York, New York, was sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment; Paul Usoro, 25, a Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, six of which were to be served in home confinement; Joshua Ditep, 26, a Nigerian citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States residing in Norman, was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment, five of which were to be served in home confinement; Tobiloba Kehinde, 29, a Nigerian citizen residing in Norman, was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, four of which were to be served in home confinement; and Chibuzo Obiefuna, 28, of Long Beach, California, and Jamiu Adedeji, 25, a Nigerian citizen residing in Norman, were each sentenced to time served.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Clinton J. Johnson for the Northern District of Oklahoma, and Special Agent in Charge Melissa Godbold of the FBI-Oklahoma City Field Office made the announcement.

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 of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Nassar of the Northern District of Oklahoma prosecuted the case.

This case is part of an ongoing national effort by the Department of Justice to address online fraud schemes, including those based out of Nigeria, that target U.S. citizens and residents.  The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/.   

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