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|Third Defendant Pleads Guilty For His Role In Nigerian Romance Scam by EsomahJD: 3:18pm On Jan 14|
Three Norman residents have pleaded guilty in what federal investigation authorities called a “Nigerian romance scam,” the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Tobiloba Kehinde, 28, of Norman, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in federal court last month, according to a statement from the Department of Justice. Two other Norman residents, Afeez Olajide Adebara, 35, who owns TBA stores, and John Oluwaseun Ogundele, 31, pleaded guilty in 2019.
According to the federal grand jury document obtained by The Transcript, 10 men were indicted in a scheme to use fake identities and coerce victims to send them hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and goods between 2017 and 2019. The victims live in Pryor, Oklahoma, Ohio and Florida, and the crimes were investigated by the FBI in Oklahoma City.
Kehinde “maintained” two addresses in Norman — on Ringwood Street and Oak Avenue — and is a Nigerian citizen and permanent U.S. resident, the indictment reads. He received a fake passport from co-conspirators and used the aliases “Jeff Atto” and “Ari Lawson,” the court record shows.
“From 2017 through November 2019, Kehinde knowingly concealed the proceeds of a romance scam operation by moving money between and among multiple bank accounts that were opened under various aliases using fake passports and other fraudulent identification documents to obscure the source of the funds and the identities of the co-conspirator,” a DOJ statement reads. “Court documents state that he and his co-conspirators took further steps to conceal the source of the funds, took a commission and directed the remainder of the funds back to the online romance scammers in Nigeria, including in the form of vehicles and vehicle parts.”
Court records show Kehinde coordinated with fellow co-conspirators to set up fake social media and dating profiles on sites like Match.com, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts with “the intent to defraud victims.”
The “overseas” defendants often told victims they needed funds to return to the U.S. or to complete work projects, the indictment stated.
“The overseas co-conspirators told victims they were U.S. residents working abroad,” the statement reads. “In fact, the investigation revealed that these overseas co-conspirators were located in Nigeria. As these online ‘relationships’ continued, the overseas co-conspirators’ would request increasingly larger sums of money, claiming that the funds were needed to complete business projects or to return to the United States. The victims were directed by the overseas co-conspirators to send funds to Kehinde and others’ bank accounts, assuring the victims that he would allocate the money as needed.”
Kehinde admitted to authorities the funds were obtained illegally.
“In his plea agreement, Kehinde admitted that he knew the money involved in the financial transactions involved the proceeds from unlawful activity,” the statement reads. “He further stated that he knew the financial transactions were designed, in whole or in part, to conceal or disguise the nature, the location, the source, the ownership or the control of the proceeds of the unlawful activity.”
Kehinde’s sentencing hearing is set for March 29, 2021.
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