Last week, Onovughe Ighorhiohwunu, 47, a resident of Kennesaw, Georgia, was sentenced by United States District Judge Scott H. Rash to 130 months in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Money Laundering. Ighorhiohwunu was previously found guilty by a federal jury of conspiring to launder more than $1.3 million in proceeds obtained from victims of an internet romance fraud. As part of his sentence, Ighorhiohwunu was fined $25,000 and ordered to pay $1,342,150 in restitution.
Evidence at trial and sentencing established that, between July 2019 and May 2020, Ighorhiohwunu participated in a scheme where conspirators with connections to Nigeria used fictitious or assumed online identities to meet victims in the United States.
Conspirators contacted victims through dating websites and games like Words With Friends and then pretended to strike up romantic relationships with them. After establishing relationships, conspirators asked the victims for money, often to help with a phony crisis such as an emergency medical procedure, and usually told the victims their money would be repaid.
Conspirators directed at least 10 victims to send large sums of money by mail or wire to Ighorhiohwunu and others, which was then withdrawn in cash and hand-delivered to conspirators or wired to other bank accounts. Ighorhiohwunu received payment for his role in the scheme.
“Internet-based scams like this one starkly illustrate both the greed of the perpetrators and the generosity of the elderly victims,” said United States Attorney Gary Restaino. “Thanks to our partners at the Federal Bureau of Investigation for unraveling the complex scheme and providing a strong message of deterrence.”
The United States Attorney’s Office encourages the public to be wary of similar scams and to verify with law enforcement and family members before sending money after any online, or phone, solicitations.