Seven individuals pleaded guilty to participating in a large-scale international online fraud conspiracy, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis of the Southern District of Mississippi and Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans.
Rhulane Fionah Hlungwane, 26, of South Africa; Gabriel Oludare Adeniran, 30, of Nigeria; Olusegun Seyi Shonekan, 34, of Nigeria; Taofeeq Olamilekan Oyelade, 32, of Nigeria; Olufemi Obaro Omoraka, 27, of Nigeria; Anuoluwapo Segun Adegbemigun, 40, of Nigeria; and Adekunle Adefila, 41, of Nigeria, each pleaded guilty this week to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. In addition, Hlungwane, Adeniran, Shonekan, Oyelade, Omoraka and Adegbemigun each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, access device fraud and theft of government funds.
According to the plea agreements, the defendants and their co-conspirators carried out numerous internet-based fraud schemes dating back at least to 2001. These schemes involved using unsuspecting victims to cash counterfeit checks and money orders, using stolen credit card numbers to purchase electronics and other merchandise and using stolen personal identification information to take over victims’ bank accounts. As a whole, the conspiracy involved tens of millions of dollars in intended losses.
The defendants admitted that, to accomplish their fraud schemes, they recruited the assistance of U.S. citizens via “romance scams,” in which the perpetrator would typically use a false identity on a dating website to establish a romantic relationship with an unsuspecting victim. Once the perpetrator gained the victim’s trust and affection, the perpetrator would convince the victim to either send money or to help carry out fraud schemes. For example, the defendants admitted that they used romance victims to launder money via Western Union and MoneyGram, to re-package and re-ship fraudulently obtained merchandise and to cash counterfeit checks.
This case is being prosecuted as part of the Justice Department’s mission to combat transnational organized crime. Any person who believes they may be a victim of online fraud should report suspected criminal activity using the HSI Tip Form: www.ice.gov/webform/hsi-tip-form.
HSI investigated the case. Trial Attorney Conor Mulroe of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section, Senior Counsel Peter Roman of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Annette Williams of the Southern District of Mississippi are prosecuting the case.