Cyber conman confesses to $1m romance scam

A Massachusetts man has pleaded guilty to his part in an online romance scam that conned unwary victims out of a total of $1 million, processing the money through bank accounts he controlled.

The US Department of Justice announced the confession on January 30, after Mark Arome Okuo, 43, entered the guilty plea at a US federal district court. Okuo now faces up to 30 years in prison and could end up having to pay a fine of $2 million, double the amount of stolen funds he helped to defraud.

“Okuo participated in a conspiracy involving romance scams and other online frauds designed to deceive victims into sending money to accounts he controlled,” said the DoJ, announcing the plea.

“To further the conspiracy, Okuo used fake passports in the names of aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to receive the proceeds of the romance scams.”

Okuo then withdrew the ill-gotten gains in amounts just shy of the $10,000 ceiling, where processing entities such as banks must conduct due-diligence checks.

Romance scams occur when cybercriminals use fake web aliases to pass themselves off as potential significant others to victims, often lonely or elderly and therefore vulnerable, who are then persuaded to send the conmen money over the internet.

Okuo was brought to justice with help from the Attorney General, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation, and will be sentenced on March 29.

Nor is this the first time the state of Massachussetts has been forced to deal with romance fraudsters – another such crook was convicted in August.

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