Online romance scam boss cashed $9.5 million and sentenced to 25 years in prison • The Register

A US man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison after using dating websites, email scams and other online scams to steal more than $9.5 million from companies and individuals.

Elvis Eghosa Ogiekpolor, 46, of Norcross, Georgia, was part of an “international network of online scammers and money launderers,” US Attorney Ryan Buchanan said today.

Between October 2018 and August 2020, cybercriminals led by Ogiekpolor opened more than 50 fraudulent commercial bank accounts in Georgia on behalf of a dozen front companies. During this period, Ogiekpolor also instructed at least eight “Money Mules” to open multiple fake bank accounts — for example, a “Möbel GmbH,” although Ogiekpolor never opened a real business, “let alone sold furniture,” according to prosecutors [PDF] detailed in their court filings.

If any of those accounts were flagged for fraud or other suspicious activity, Ogiekpolor would tell his mules to just open new accounts at different banks, we’re told.

Ogiekpolor then gave the bank account information to other co-conspirators to obtain the proceeds of multiple love scams, BEC (Business Email Compromise) scams, and other forms of fraud. According to the Justice Department, these digital crimes have injured “dozens” of victims in America and abroad, as well as several businesses.

Thirteen love scam victims testified at Ogiekpolor’s trial, telling the jury they had met men online and communicated with them for several months without ever meeting in person, while the men claimed they wanted to start new lives with the victims — once the men, um, a major financial issue was resolved that required Mark to send in thousands of dollars.

An affidavit from FBI Special Agent Jared Sikorski, who investigated the case, includes screenshots [PDF] by a confidential source who became a money mule, convincing a victim to transfer $32,000 to an account controlled by Ogiekpolor.

In court, the victim said she transferred the money because her “boyfriend” told her his rig needed a partial replacement, but his bank account was frozen. The victim took out a loan against her pension and savings to send him the $32,000, and she ended up having to refinance her home to pay off the loan.

Meanwhile, the BEC victims told the jury they received fake emails they believed to be from a genuine provider, demanding payment of several thousand dollars. Only after making the payments did they learn that they had been tricked into transferring the money to one of Ogiekpolor’s accounts.

In February 2022, a federal grand jury charged Ogiekpolor with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 15 counts of material money laundering. Then, on May 31, a federal jury convicted him on those charges after an eight-day trial.

After serving his sentence in a government cooler, Ogiekpolor will be released under supervision for three years. ® Online romance scam boss cashed $9.5 million and sentenced to 25 years in prison • The Register

Rick Schindler

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