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Online romance scamlord who netted $9.5m jailed for 25 years

Hello, love, I need $32k to fix my oil rig

A man in the US has been jailed for 25 years after using dating websites, email scams, and other online swindles 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 fraudsters and money launderers," US Attorney Ryan Buchanan said today.

Under Ogiekpolor's direction, cybercriminals opened more than 50 fraudulent business bank accounts in Georgia in the names of a dozen sham companies between October 2018 and August 2020. During this timeframe, Ogiekpolor further instructed at least eight "money mules" to open multiple phony bank accounts — for example, a "furniture LLC" even though Ogiekpolor never opened an actual store, "let alone sold any furniture," prosecutors [PDF] detailed in their court filings.

If any of these accounts were flagged for fraud or other suspicious activity, Ogiekpolor told his mules to simply open new ones at different banks, we're told.

Ogiekpolor then provided the bank account info to other co-conspirators to receive the proceeds from multiple romance frauds, business email compromise (BEC) scams, and other forms of fraud. According to the Justice Department, these digital crimes hurt "dozens" of victims in America and other countries, and multiple businesses.

Thirteen romance fraud victims testified at Ogiekpolor's trial and told the jury about meeting men online, communicating with them for several months without ever meeting in person while the men claimed to want to start a new life with the victims — just as soon as the men, ahem, resolved some major financial issue that required marks to send in thousands of dollars. 

An affidavit by FBI special agent Jared Sikorski, who investigated the case, includes screenshots [PDF] from a money-mule-turned-confidential source who convinced a victim to wire $32,000 to an Ogiekpolor-controlled account. 

In court, the victim said she transferred the money because her "boyfriend" told her his oil rig needed a part replacement but his bank account was frozen. The victim borrowed against her retirement and savings to send him the $32,000, and she ultimately had to refinance her home to pay back the loan.

Meanwhile, the BEC victims told the jury they had received spoof emails they believed to be from a real vendor, requesting a several-thousand-dollar payment. It wasn't until after they made the payments that they learned they had been duped into sending 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 substantive money laundering. Then, on May 31, a federal jury convicted him of these charges after an eight-day trial. 

After Ogiekpolor serves his stretch in a federal cooler, he'll have three years of supervised release. ®

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