The U.S. has sentenced 42-year-old Benard Okorhi to spend 75 months in jail for his role in a $10 million international fraud scheme that used compromised email accounts to steal from businesses and romance scams on internet dating sites to trick individuals into wiring money overseas.
The scheme is estimated to have cost residents of the U.S. approximately $8 million.
The total scheme is estimated to have netted over $10 million worldwide during the criminal enterprise’s five-year lifespan.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy Jr. announced the sentence on Wednesday.
Evidence presented in court revealed that Mr Okorhi and others, some U.S. citizens, some residents of Ghana and Nigeria, created fake profiles on online dating services to entice people looking for companionship into fraudulent relationships.
Once the victim was fully involved, the scammers would develop elaborate storylines that always required the victim to send financial assistance to his or her beloved.
The group also compromised the email networks of many businesses, redirecting wires intended to pay for services or goods to bank accounts under the scammers’ control.
Subsequently, the scammers moved the money through a number of bank accounts before “ultimately being sent to Africa.”
Messrs Okorhi, Maxwell Peter, and Babatunde Martins were arrested overseas and extradited to the United States for prosecution.
Several of their alleged co-conspirators remain at large, including Dennis Miah, Sumaila Hardi Wumpini and Mr Okorhi’s brother Victor Okhori.
Ayodeji Ojo has been arrested in Nigeria and is awaiting extradition.
On June 11, 2021, U.S. District Court Judge Sheryl H. Lipman sentenced Mr Okorhi to 75 months in federal prison.
The following individuals have been found guilty by a jury or entered pleas of guilty for their part in the scheme: Martins, time served (approximately three and a half years); Mr Peter of Ghana, 55 months; Olufolajimi Abegunde of Atlanta and Nigeria, 78 months; and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso of California and Mexico, 31 months.
Others are Rashid Abdulai of New York and Ghana, 12 months; Dana Brady of Washington, two years’ supervised release: James Dean of Indiana, two years’ probation; Marie Zamora of Utah, two years’ probation; Edchae Caffey, 18 months’ probation; and Ahmed Alimi, 14 months’ probation.