Members of the Conspiracy Formed Online Romantic Relationships to Entice Victims To Provide Money
Greenbelt, Maryland – A federal jury convicted the following defendants late on November 18, 2016, for conspiracies to commit wire fraud and money laundering arising from a scheme to defraud vulnerable victims of millions of dollars:
Gbenga Benson Ogundele, a/k/a “Benson Ogundele,” age 58, of Laurel, Maryland;
Victor Oyewumi Oloyede, age 42, of Laurel;
Babtunde Emmanuel Popoola, a/k/a “Emmanuel Popoola” and “Tunde Popoola, age 34, of Bowie, Maryland; and his sister,
Mojisola Tinuola Popoola, a/k/a “Mojisola Oluwakemi Tin Popoola” and “Moji T. Popoola,” age 42, of Laurel.
The conviction was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
According to evidence presented at the 17-day trial, from January 2011 to May 18, 2015, members of the conspiracy searched online dating websites to initiate romantic relationships with vulnerable male and female individuals. They phoned, emailed, texted and used internet chat messenger services to form romantic relationships with the victims, who lived in Maryland and around the country.
Witnesses testified that members of the conspiracy used false stories and promises to convince the victims to provide money to the conspirators, including fake hospital bills, plane trips to visit the victims, problems with overseas businesses and foreign taxes. Ogundele, Oloyede, the Popoolas and other conspirators opened bank accounts, called “drop accounts,” in order to receive millions of dollars from the victims. Testimony at trial showed that victims provided money to the defendants as a result of the false stories and promises, either depositing money directly into drop accounts controlled by the defendants, or by checks sent to the conspirators. The payments from victims ranged from $1,720 to $50,000.
Ogundele, Oloyede, the Popoolas, and their co-conspirators dispersed money received from the victims by transferring funds to other accounts controlled by the conspirators, by obtaining cashier’s checks, and by writing checks to individuals or entities, in order to conceal the nature, source, and control of those assets.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for conspiring to commit wire fraud, and for conspiring to commit money laundering. Additionally, all of the defendants except for Mojisola Popoola face a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison to be served consecutive to any other sentence for aggravated identity theft, arising from the use of a victim’s name, bank account number or driver’s license in furtherance of the fraud scheme. U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm has scheduled sentencing for Oloyede on January 25, 2017; for the Popoolas on February 22, 2017; and for Ogundele on February 23, 2017.
The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the FBI for its work in the investigation and thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Thomas P. Windom and Leah Jo Bressack, who are prosecuting the case.