Nigerian National Sentenced for Orchestrating Online Romance Scam

Published: 13 September 2021

Romance ScamA Nigerian national living in Oklahoma was sentenced for operating a money laundering network that defrauded its victims, including several elderly Americans, of at least US$2.5 million, through romance scam. (Photo: FBI)

By Henry Pope

A Nigerian national living in Oklahoma was sentenced on Friday for running a ring that laundered at least US2.5 million obtained from romance scams that preyed on elderly Americans.

Afeez Adebara, 36, orchestrated a Nigerian-based romance scam operation from 2017 to 2019, using online dating websites and social media platforms to snare his victims.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), members of Adebara’s criminal conspiracy pretended to be Americans working or traveling abroad. As they developed rapport with their victims, they requested money in increasingly larger sums, claiming the funds were needed to complete business projects or to help them return to the United States.

The scam ring laundered the proceeds through several bank accounts, which were opened under false identities using fake passports and other fraudulent documentation.

Before Adebara passed on the account numbers to his co-conspirators to launder their ill-gotten gains, he would first take a commission for himself, the DOJ said.

The laundered money would then be redirected back to their own accounts in Nigeria, or be used to purchase vehicles and car parts.

“Afeez Adebara led a group of money launderers who bilked unsuspecting victims out of their hard-earned retirement and savings accounts,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Clint Johnson.

Adebara is the seventh member of the ring to be sentenced; OCCRP previously covered the guilty plea of a co-conspirator in January this year.

Sentencing for the fraud ring has ranged from time served to nearly three years’ imprisonment.

As the leader of the criminal group, Adebara has been sentenced to four years in prison; he must also pay $500,740 in restitution to his victims.

The elderly are often targeted for online and phone scams. Scammers will try to trick them into believing they owe thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes or power and utility fees.

Scammers also impersonate police officers and lawyers, making their victims believe a close relative is in dire legal trouble, and stating that unless they quickly surrender thousands of dollars, their loved ones will be sent to jail.