A federal jury has indicted a Texas man and woman for allegedly laundering proceeds of Nigerian Ponzi-style schemes and romance scams, the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced.
27-year-old Charles Ochi from Grand Prairie and 24-year-old Vanessa Okocha from Houston are claimed to have conspired with others to “launder and transmit” proceeds of investment schemes based in Nigeria and of romance fraud.
According to charging documents, the two had been active since around 2016 and did not operate alone. They are believed to have worked within a US-based network that included the owners of “at least two” used car exporting companies.
With the help of co-conspirators, Ochi and Okocha are alleged to have laundered funds swindled through online fraud operations.
“The investment fraud schemes allegedly purported to offer trading and bitcoin investing services when, in fact, investor funds were stolen,” the DoJ said.
“Victims’ investments were later used to pay purported returns to earlier investors,” it noted.
Meanwhile, romance scams “deceived online victims into sending money to persons with whom they believed they had a romantic relationship,” DoJ said.
Neither Ochi and Okocha nor their collaborators held money transmitting licenses in their states of residence or were registered as money transmitters as required by federal law.
The Texan pair was indicted on one count each of money laundering conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business, and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business.
If found guilty on all three counts, they could face a prison sentence of up to 30 years each. Ochi is set to appear in federal court in Boston while Okocha remains at large.
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