Romance scams: Kenyan woman, Nigerian man face 30-year jail in U.S for defrauding victims of over $4million
36-year-old Kenyan woman Florence Mwende Musau living in Massachusetts, United States has admitted to her role in an elaborate romance scam, masterminded by a Nigerian national, Mark Arome Okuo, that defrauded multiple men of more than $4million.
Four Nigerians, among whom were Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi, 36 and Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi, 34, both residing in Canton, Mass. were indicted for similar romance scams in March.
Also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud. was Macpherson Osemwegie, 32, of Hyde Park.
42-year-old Mike Oziegbe Amiegbe, another Nigerian residing in Dorchester, Mass., was charged in a third complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
However, Okuo, 41, a Nigerian residing in Canton and Musau, were charged in a separate complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud.
The Kenyan who previously resided in Canton, pleaded guilty on Monday to federal counts of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud, the US attorney’s office in Boston said.
She faces a maximum of 30 years in prison when she is sentenced on October 14 by U.S. District Court Judge Allison D. Burroughs.
On March 25, 2021, Musau and five others were charged in connection with their roles in online scams that are alleged to have collectively defrauded victims of more than $4 million.
According to the charging documents, Musau participated in a series of romance scams designed to defraud victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by her and others.
Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
To carry out the schemes, Musau used fake passports in the names of numerous aliases to open bank accounts in and around Boston to collect and launder the proceeds of the romance scams.
She then executed large cash withdrawals from those accounts, often multiple times on a single day and generally structured in amounts less than $10,000, in an effort to evade detection and currency transaction reporting requirements.
Some of the fake names she used to open bank accounts in the Boston area were Precious Adams and Catherine Muthoki.
She would collect the money in cash and then laundered the proceeds of the scams, prosecutors said.
Musau and one of her alleged accomplices, 41-year-old Nigerian national Mark Arome Okuo, were accused of transferring or depositing $1.3million in fraudulent proceeds, since 2018, into various bank accounts, including $195,000 obtained through five romance scams.
A criminal complaint by the Department of Justice in Distict of Massachusetts , details how Okuo would allegedly meet women on dating sites and pretend to be a US Army soldier serving in the Middle East or Africa.
As the relationships developed, Okuo claimed that he needed the women to wire him money so that he could leave the military and return to the US to marry them, according to the court documents.
In one case, a victim was said to have transferred $137,000 to bank accounts controlled by Okuo and Musau, thinking it would help her groom-to-be to obtain his military retirement benefits early.
In another case, Okuo allegedly told a woman from Georgia that he lived in Kuwait and worked in the oil industry, but was in love with her and needed $4,700 to return to the US to be with her. The victim promptly wired the sum to an account controlled by the accused con man.
As part of the dating scam, Musau swindled a California resident she met on social media out of $7,800 by claiming that she was a United Nations refugee camp worker who needed the money to return to the US to start a new life with him.
The bank accounts opened by the accused con artists also were used to collect a further $20,000 through pandemic unemployment benefits in the names of unsuspecting Massachusetts residents who did not apply for such benefits.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire and bank fraud provide for a sentence of up to 30 years in prison, five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, restitution, and forfeiture.
Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; William S. Walker, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Boston; Joshua McCallister, Acting Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division; and Jonathan Davidson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service made the announcement on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ian Stearns of Mendell’s Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.