A ‘catfishing’ Nigerian fraudster who duped love-starved victims into forking over millions of dollars in an online romance scam was hit with a 25-year federal prison sentence, federal prosecutors in Georgia said Monday.
Elvis Eghosa Ogiekpolor, 46, enlisted a crew of eight “money mules” to lure unsuspecting victims into a $9.5 million online fraud and money laundering racket — including lonely hearts who were romanced through fake online dating profiles, the prosecutors said.
“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.”
In a scam that ran for nearly two years, the feds said Ogiekpolor, a Nigerian native who lives in Norcross, Georgia, opened at least 50 phony business accounts to collect and launder the money from his unsuspecting victims, federal prosecutors said.
The scam targeted vulnerable victims — like retired widows and widowers — and lured them into phony romances through online dating sites and coaxed them into sending money to their new love interests, the feds said.
One victim — among 13 who testified at Ogiekpolor’s trial — said she was convinced to send nearly $70,000 to a man she met on the dating site eHarmony.
Another victim tapped into her retirement and savings accounts to wire $32,000 to her online “boyfriend,” eventually being forced to refinance her home.
In addition to his victims, five of Ogiekpolor’s accomplices testified against him at his trial after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, prosecutors said.
An upcoming federal court hearing will determine how much money Ogiekpolor will be required to pay in restitution.