Eleven charged with cheating older victims through dating sites, federal authorities say



DALLAS – Eleven people have been charged in connection with a plan to target the elderly for money, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the northern Texas district said Friday.

All eleven were arrested on Wednesday morning during a large-scale operation, the US prosecutor said. Most are linked to a transnational organized crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, the bureau said.

The office described the crimes as “romantic intrigues” in which suspects allegedly used fake names to lure older victims – mostly women – through dating websites and mobile apps such as match.com, Christian Mingle, JSwipe and Plenty of Fish.

After giving the false impression that they were romantically interested in the victims, the alleged scammers said they were tracking their bank accounts by spreading “sobbing stories” about why they needed money – important overseas travel, crippling debts, tax obligations and the to like.

Between 2015 and 2020, the eleven suspects skimmed tens of thousands of dollars from the victims, the US prosecutor said.

“Crimes like this are particularly despicable because they rely not only on victims’ lack of internet knowledge, but also on their isolation, loneliness, and sometimes grief. While the victims open their hearts, the perpetrators open their wallets, ”said incumbent US Attorney Prerak Shah. “The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people.”

The US Attorney’s Office identified the defendant as Afeez Abiola Alao, 37; David Animashaun, 38; Uwadiale Esezobor, 36; Victor Idowu, 36; Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40; Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51; Ambrose Sunday Ohide, 47; Ijeoma Okoro, 31; Chukwemeka Orji, 36; Emanuel Stanley Orji, 35; and Frederick Orji, 37.

They are charged with charges including conspiracy to commit wire transfer fraud and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, the office said. If convicted, they face 20 years in federal prison on charges of wire fraud and up to 10 years on charges of money laundering.

Most of the defendants were arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the bureau said, adding that nearly two dozen other people were indicted in a related indictment in the Eastern District of Texas.

Matthew DeSarno, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Dallas field office, said Wednesday’s operation would have a significant impact on the region.

“The crimes these defendants allegedly committed hit very closely. Your neighbors, parents, friends and family would be targets of this organization. The scammers intimidated and abused their victims, really ruined their lives and then disappeared, ”DeSarno said in a written statement.

More than 20,000 people lost more than $ 600 million to romance in the past year, according to the FBI. For tips on how to avoid falling prey to such scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s romance scam page online. People can file reports of such schemes with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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