Eleven people have been charged in a scheme targeting the elderly for money, the North Texas District Attorney’s Office said on Friday.
All 11 were arrested in a large-scale operation Wednesday morning, the US prosecutor’s office said. Most are linked to a transnational organized crime syndicate originating in Nigeria, the office said.
The bureau described the crimes as “romantic ploys” in which suspects allegedly used false names to lure elderly victims – mostly women – through dating sites and mobile apps like match.com, Christian Mingle, JSwipe and Plenty of Fish.
After giving the false impression that they were romantically interested in the victims, the office said, the alleged fraudsters focused on their bank accounts by telling “bloody stories” as to why the money needed – trips to l foreign essentials, crippling debts, tax obligations and the Like.
Between 2015 and 2020, the 11 suspects siphoned tens of thousands of dollars from victims, the U.S. prosecutor’s office said.
“Crimes like these are particularly despicable because they are based not only on victims’ lack of internet knowledge, but also on their isolation, loneliness and sometimes their grief. As victims open their hearts, perpetrators open their wallets, ”Acting US Prosecutor Prerak Shah said. “The only mistake these victims make is being generous to the wrong people.”
The US prosecutor’s office identified the accused as Afeez Abiola Alao, 37; David Animashaun, 38; Uwadiale Esezobor, 36 years old; Victor Idowu, 36 years old; Oluwalobamise Michael Moses, 40; Irabor Fatarr Musa, 51 years old; Ambroise Sunday Ohide, 47 years old; Ijeoma Okoro, 31 years old; Chukwemeka Orji, 36 years old; Emmanuel Stanley Orji, 35 years old; and Frédéric Orji, 37 years old.
They are charged with charges including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, the office said. If found guilty, they face 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy and up to 10 years for money laundering conspiracy.
Most of the defendants have been arrested in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the office said, adding that nearly two dozen more people have been charged in a related indictment in the Eastern District of Texas.
Matthew DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI field office in Dallas, said Wednesday’s operation would have a significant impact in the region.
“The crimes allegedly committed by these defendants affected close to their homes. Your neighbors, relatives, friends and family would be the targets of this organization. The scammers intimidated and berated their victims, really ruined their lives, and then disappeared, ”DeSarno said in a written statement.
More than 20,000 people collectively lost more than $ 600 million in romance schemes last year, according to the FBI. Advice on how to avoid falling prey to such scams can be found online by going to the Federal Trade Commission’s Romantic Scam page. People can file reports of such schemes with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center.