Love is hard.
Federal prosecutors in Georgia announced on Monday that a “catfishing” Nigerian fraudster who deceived love-starved victims into parting with millions of dollars in an online romance scam received a 25-year federal prison sentence.
According to prosecutors, 46-year-old Elvis Eghosa Ogiekpolor recruited a team of eight “money mules” to entice unsuspecting victims into a $9.5 million online fraud and money laundering scheme. These victims included lonely hearts who were romanced through fictitious online dating profiles.
“There is no way we can make the victims of Ogiekpolor and this network whole again,” FBI agent Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge in Atlanta, said in a statement. “But we hope this sentence will at least give them solace that people are being held accountable.”
Federal prosecutors said that Ogiekpolor, a Nigerian native who lives in Norcross, Georgia, opened at least 50 fictitious business accounts to steal money from his unsuspecting victims in a scam that lasted nearly two years.
According to the federal government, the scam aimed at vulnerable victims, such as retired widows and widowers, and used online dating sites to entice them into fictitious relationships and convince them to send money to their new love interests.
One of the 13 victims who gave evidence at Ogiekpolor’s trial claimed that she was persuaded to send nearly $70,000 to a man she met on eHarmony.
Another victim wired $32,000 to her online “boyfriend” using her retirement and savings accounts, forcing her to refinance her home.
Ogiekpolor, according to the prosecution, not only targeted the loveless, but also deceived employees at a number of businesses into making payments they believed to be legitimate.
Prosecutors stated that five of Ogiekpolor’s accomplices, in addition to his victims, testified against him at his trial after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The amount of restitution that Ogiekpolor will be required to pay will be determined during a forthcoming hearing in the federal court.