Nigerian jailed for 78 months in US for cyber, marriage frauds
A Nigerian national resident in Atlanta, Georgia, Olufolajimi Abegunde has been sentenced to 78 months in prison for cyber fraud.
Abegunde, an MBA graduate from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, who also ordered to pay $57,911.62 in restitution to the victims of his offense, a statement by the United States Department of Justice said.
Abegunde, 32, and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 29, were both charged in a criminal organisation in which members “spoofed” emails and created fake profiles on dating websites.
The court said Abegeunde played a key role, along with Ramos-Alonso, in laundering fraud funds from an October 3, 2016, business email compromise (BEC) of a land title company in Bellingham, Washington.
The proceeds of another BEC perpetrated in July 2016 upon a real estate company in Memphis, Tennessee, also moved through parts of the same criminal organisation.
Ramos-Alonso received a 31-month sentence for his role in the scheme.
According to the court, the criminal organisation have caused more than $10,000,000 in damage to U.S. citizens and businesses.
The evidence presented at trial showed that Abegunde engaged in black-market currency exchanges over the life of the conspiracy.
Abegunde claimed association with a business entity that was not yet operational in late 2017, so for his primary source of income he relied on his off-the-book currency exchanges.
Abegunde used a complicated network of third-party bank accounts to disguise his illicit activity.
The proof at trial established that Abegunde told people that he could not receive payments into accounts that could be “tracked,” and that he preferred to engage in cash transactions because they were easier to clean and “eliminated the risk.”
Meanwhile, Abegunde’s lawyer said his client did not intend to defraud anyone.
“I feel that my client might have been guilty of relaxing operating procedures and security provisions for his fledgling foreign remittance business, but he had no desire to engage in any conspiracy to defraud,” John Keith Perry, Abegunde’s attorney told Newsweek.
Keith believes “the Court of Appeals will see the issues as we see them.”
In addition to his financial activities, Abegunde also engaged in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.
Abegunde was married during his studies at Texas A&M, but divorced his wife in 2016 to marry a U.S. service member through whom he could obtain immigration and health care benefits and also open new bank accounts.
He continued to live with his first wife in Atlanta while his U.S. service member wife was deployed to South Korea.
While incarcerated and awaiting trial in the Western District of Tennessee, Abegunde continued his conspiratorial activities, trying to convince his fake spouse, who has since filed for divorce, to refuse to testify against him.
Abegunde also engaged in witness tampering by sending a self-written Motion to Dismiss bearing his former attorney’s name and professional attestation.
The evidence at trial established that Abegunde drafted and sent the motion, which his attorney did not authorise, to his faux spouse in an effort to deceive her into not testifying against him.
Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme. Additionally, several foreign nationals are awaiting extradition to the United States to face trial. Others are still at large.
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