Nigerian in Georgia Sentenced for Online Romance Scams

A Nigerian resident in Georgia has been sentenced for involvement in online romance scams.

In Memphis, Tennessee, a Nigerian citizen living in Georgia has been handed a five-year federal prison sentence for participating in a conspiracy that orchestrated a series of romance and investment scams targeting victims across the United States, including Western Tennessee. The individual, 40-year-old Efe Egbowawa, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering. This announcement was made by Kevin G. Ritz, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee.

The operation involved the use of fake identities and email accounts on various internet dating sites, deceiving victims into sending money to shell companies and fictitious agents. This scheme was part of a broader conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering, for which Egbowawa and others were indicted by a federal grand jury in the Western District of Tennessee on June 29, 2023. Among those indicted were Igocha Mac-Okor, a 40-year-old Nigerian citizen residing in the Atlanta area, and Kay Ozegbe, a 44-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen, also based in Atlanta.

Court evidence showed that from 2017 to around November 2021, the members of the conspiracy adopted fake personas on email, social media, gaming applications, networking sites, dating websites, and other online platforms. Their aim was to entice victims into forming friendships or romantic relationships, subsequently exploiting these connections to solicit money through various means including wire transfers, checks, U.S. mail, and package delivery services.

The scammers, referred to as “handlers,” feigned potential friendships or romantic interests, rapidly establishing relationships through social media, text messaging, emails, and phone calls. Once a victim was emotionally invested, these scammers would request emergency financial assistance, gradually increasing the amount asked for over time.

Other members of the conspiracy served as “money mules,” moving the illicit funds through multiple bank accounts and shell companies to obscure the money’s origin and complicate tracing efforts.

Egbowawa’s sentencing to 60 months in federal prison was carried out by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas L. Parker on April 17. Co-defendant Ozegbe has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and awaits sentencing on May 24, 2024. Mac-Okor’s trial is set for August 5, 2024.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Memphis Field Office and the United States Postal Inspection Service. U.S. Attorney Kevin Ritz expressed his gratitude towards Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Smith for prosecuting the case and acknowledged the essential role of law enforcement partners in the investigation.

Source: Read Original Release

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