Orem resident Jeffersonking Anyanwu, 34, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with facilitating a romance scheme involving more than 350 victims, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Anyanwu was sentenced to 63 months in federal prison and was ordered to serve three years of supervised release. He also must pay $8.4 million in restitution to the victims of his crimes, according to the release.
A total of eight individual are being charged for their roles in the scams.
The release listed five other defendants who have pleaded guilty and received sentences. The case is currently pending on charges for another two unnamed defendants.
“Defendant Onoriode Kenneth Adigbolo was sentenced to 36 months’ imprisonment,” reads the release. “Defendant Daniel Negedu and Defendant Richard Bassey Ukorebi were each sentenced to 51 months’ imprisonment. Defendant David Maduagu was sentenced to 26 months’ imprisonment. These Defendants have been ordered jointly and severally liable for $8.4 million in restitution. Defendant Adriana Sotelo was sentenced to 12 months’ home confinement.”
The eight individuals allegedly worked in the United States and Nigeria through fake online profiles to scam over 350 victims out of $8.4 million in total, mostly targeting elderly individuals.
“The fake personas were usually males in the 55 to 65-year-old range, and appeared to target widows, divorcees, or women in troubled marriages,” reads the release. “Victims were apparently targeted through social media sites, dating sites, and online games such as word searches or word puzzle games. Anyanwu allegedly used more than 20 accounts to facilitate the scheme.”
The fake personas assumed identities of real individuals and celebrities. According to the release, several assumed identities of real U.S. military personnel. This scam targeted women in particular, convincing them an interested individual was stationed overseas with significant financial assets and wanted to get married.
“They also convinced the women that they could not access their assets or leave the foreign station unless the women advanced them funds to be used to release their assets and obtain secure travel,” reads the release.
The women investing funds would be assured it was safe to invest, and that the money would be returned to them, according to the release. There were a host of other profiles used to convince individuals to send money, more information on romance scams can be found on the FBI website.