(Newsroom America) -- A federal jury has convicted four people 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.
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.