2 Nigerian men sentenced to prison in ‘romance scam’ case

Two Nigerians living in New Jersey have been sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to laundering money stolen from an online ‘romance scam’ and other schemes through involuntary businesses , including one in Alabama, authorities said Friday.

Paulinus Ebhodaghe, 40, of Clementon, New Jersey, was sentenced to nearly four years in prison and Ohimai Asikhia, 37, of Glassboro, New Jersey, was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison, prosecutors said in a press release. The pair, described as Nigerian nationals, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to launder money in 2018,

The men were accused of helping launder hundreds of thousands of dollars that were caught up in online scams, including a ‘romance’ scheme where email, dating or social media users assume an identity and pretend to be interested in someone in hopes of getting them to send money, court documents show.

Conspiracy members created fake email accounts to impersonate legitimate businesses and vendors and contact victim businesses where individuals were instructed to receive and transfer money, according to an indictment. One of the targeted businesses was in northern Alabama, prosecutors said, but the business was not identified in court documents.

The charges detailed a series of money transfers ranging from a few thousand dollars to nearly $115,000 over the months. The money was sent to bank accounts in Nigeria and used to buy cars which were shipped overseas.

Ebhodaghe and Asikhia usually received fees of at least 20% of the money they moved, prosecutors said.

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