A 51-year-old man of Nigerian origin, Ronayerin Ogolor, has been sentenced to three years in prison for internet fraud in the United States.
Ogolor was sentenced by US Chief District Judge, Beth Phillips, and was ordered to pay $871,739 in restitution to his 13 victims.
Court documents said 13 victims from around the US and Italy each sent tens of thousands of dollars to Ogolor.
In one case, a widow from Indiana who received a friend request on Facebook was led to believe that one of Ogolor’s accomplices was a widower named ‘Lawrence Garrison’ working on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana.
In October 2019, Ogolor pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He accepted responsibility for his role in a scam that targeted singles seeking love, some of them elderly, through Facebook and dating websites ChristianMingle.com and LetsHangout.com.
According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, since 2013, Ogolor and his accomplices created several bogus online dating profiles then contacted men and women throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe, ‘with whom they cultivated a sense of affection and often romance.’
After establishing relationships with their ‘marks’ by communicating with them online and on the phone, Ogolor and his co-conspirators proceeded to ask for money for hospital fees, travel expenses, ‘customs expenses,’ ‘golf import taxes,’ or investment opportunities.
Often after the victims handed over the money, the crooks claimed even more funds were needed ‘to release the package’ or ‘to pay customs expenses’ on money or gold.
In some instances, women sold their personal property, including houses and cars, to raise money for the criminals.
Another component of the sprawling scam was business email hacking, where Ogolor and his cohorts fraudulently obtained checks from businesses with the help of their unsuspecting victims.
According to prosecutors, as part of the plot Ogolor opened several bank accounts in his name and in the names of sham businesses. The romance fraud victims wired and deposited their money and money from counterfeit or fraudulently obtained checks into Ogolor’s accounts.