Nigerian gets 10-year sentence in US for romance fraud, other

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A Nigerian was sentenced on Monday to 10 years and one month in prison and ordered to pay over $1.46 million in restitution for conspiring to launder money derived from internet fraud schemes.

According to the US Department of Justice, court documents and evidence presented at trial revealed that Olugbenga Lawal, 33, of Indianapolis, Indiana, worked directly with the Nigeria-based leader of an international criminal organisation that defrauded individuals and businesses across the US of millions of dollars.

According to the papers, they were able to commit these crimes using sophisticated internet-based fraud schemes such as romance fraud and corporate email breach scams.

The criminal organization frequently targeted elderly victims who believed they had fallen in love with people they had met on the internet. Lawal then laundered millions of dollars of proceeds from the fraud schemes.

Between January 2019 and June 2020, bank accounts used by Lawal and his co-conspirators to launder money on behalf of the criminal organization received millions of dollars traced directly to individuals and businesses defrauded over the internet by members of the criminal organization.

Accounts Lawal controlled received over $3.6 million in deposits between January 2019 and May 2020. Those deposits were spread across seven different bank accounts Lawal opened in his own name or the name of his business entity, Luxe Logistics LLC. Ultimately, Lawal controlled bank accounts at no less than five different financial institutions in furtherance of his money laundering.

Additionally, Lawal played a role in laundering money for the criminal organization by converting the fraud dollars deposited in his accounts into Nigerian currency accessible in Nigeria.

He engaged in import/export transactions involving the shipment of cars to Nigeria and currency exchange business transactions to facilitate the repatriation of the organization’s fraud proceeds back to Nigeria.

On Aug. 10, 2023, Lawal was convicted by a federal jury of conspiring to commit money laundering. Three co-conspirators, Michael Hermann, Rita Assane, and Dwight Baines, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.