Romance scammer faces jail for money laundering

Another romance scammer has bitten the dust, pleading guilty to related crimes at a federal court in Massachusetts after being extradited from the UK to face charges.

Chukwunonso “Douglas” Umegbo – who went by various aliases, including James Abbott and Richard Armani – did not confess directly to stealing money but pleaded guilty to laundering it and making false statements to banks that allowed him to open legitimate accounts through which to funnel his ill-gotten gains.

Umegbo, 38, formerly of New Bedford, Massachusetts, opened fake bank accounts in and around the city of Boston between 2018 and 2019, said the US Department of Justice (DoJ).

Into these, he deposited more than half a million dollars, allegedly obtained through romance scams – an online con in which a perpetrator persuades their victim that they are in love with them and in need of financial assistance.

“The bank accounts were used to receive fraudulently obtained funds from a number of victims,” said the DoJ. “Umegbo withdrew the money in cash, used the funds to purchase cashier’s checks, or spent the money on personal purchases.”

Umegbo’s fraudulent accounts received more than $560,000 in total. That will be small consolation to him now, however, as he potentially faces decades behind bars and will likely be ordered to pay restitution of up to twice the amount he stole.

He could also be fined up to $1 million on top of that, although the DoJ did not specify when Umegbo would be sentenced.

Arrested in London in the UK in April 2022 after a federal grand jury indictment the previous year, Umegbo was sent to the US last February following an extradition request from the authorities there.

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