A New York man has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison for laundering money obtained through romance and business email compromise (BEC) scams that cost the victims $1 million and caused one to commit suicide.
Okechukwu Nwofor, 32, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced at a federal court in California on August 7th, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) disclosed the following day.
Nwofor and the gang he led lured victims over the internet by pretending to be potential love interests or business associates — a practise that the anonymity of the web facilitates all too easily.
In this case, Nwofor’s scheme not only robbed victims of their money and dignity but also led to one death by suicide, while leaving a disability sufferer bereft of essential care.
“[Nwofor] and his co-conspirators’ fraudulent conduct has left many of the victims in dire straits, including one victim’s inability to care for her disabled son, the foreclose of another’s home, and even one victim tragically taking her own life,” said prosecutors.
Another victim, from Pasadena, California, wired around $19,000 to an account controlled by Nwofor’s accomplices — cited by the DoJ as an example of a classic ruse employed in the romance scam, where the target is falsely persuaded they are helping out a loved one in need.
Sentencing judge Stephen Wilson described gang ringleader Nwofor as the “personification of evil” and a “kingpin.”
Nwofor appears to have reduced his sentence by entering a plea bargain, in which he admitted on February 21st this year to laundering money from the romance and BEC scams between 2018 and 2019.
Said to have used a network of fraudsters to process money stolen from hoodwinked victims, Nwofor is not described by the DoJ as having been charged with any other offenses in this case.
Nwofor opened bank accounts in his name and that of an Albany-based front company, called Juboy New Generation, which he founded for the purpose of further concealing his crimes. He then used this setup to launder money wired by victims to his gang members via interstate transactions.
For this ‘service’ Nwofor usually charged his accomplices a 20% cut before redistributing funds to other gang members. All in all, the scheme robbed victims of some $930,000, and Nwofor has been ordered by the court to pay $392,296 in restitution.
Four other defendants have confessed to being money mules in the scheme and have also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Three of them received probationary sentences while another awaits sentencing.
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