HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – A Nigerian national who was indicted in April 2021 as part of a massive fraud and money laundering scheme has pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit money laundering.
According to court documents and statements made during the plea hearing, Kenneth Emeni, 29, a Nigerian citizen residing in Martinsburg, was involved from at least August 2017 to October 8, 2020, along with Kenneth Ogudu, also known as Kenneth Lee, John Nassy, Romello Thorpe, Oluwagbenga Harrison, Ouluwabamishe Awolesi and others in a money laundering plot that took place in Huntington and elsewhere. Emeni lived in Huntington from August 2017 to December 2019. As part of the scheme, Emeni’s co-conspirators created fake online characters and contacted the victims via email, text or online dating sites and of social networks in order to make the victims believe that they were in a romantic, friendly or commercial relationship with various fake personalities. Victims were persuaded to send money for various bogus and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of fake personalities.
Emeni’s role in the plot was to let the victims transfer money to his bank account which he knew was from illegal activity. Emeni admitted that after the victims’ funds were deposited into his account, he kept some of the money for himself and passed some of it on to his co-conspirators via wire transfers or Zelle. Emeni received approximately $ 42,050 from transfers from his co-conspirators and transferred approximately $ 46,197 to his co-conspirators during the money laundering conspiracy. Emeni further admitted that he and his co-conspirators transferred large sums of the proceeds of their fraud to offshore accounts. From 2018 to 2020, Emeni transferred over $ 358,846 to accounts in Nigeria and Ghana.
Emeni faces up to 20 years in prison when convicted on April 11, 2022. As part of his plea deal, Emeni agreed to pay $ 904,126.96 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and praised the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), West Virginia State Police and South Charleston Police Department.
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing. Assistant Prosecutors for the United States R. Gregory McVey and Kathleen Robeson are handling the prosecution.
The public is encouraged to report any fraudulent or potential scam activity online at https://www.ic3.gov/.
If you or someone you know is 60 years of age or older and has been the victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Seniors Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This United States Department of Justice hotline, operated by the Office for Victims of Crime, is comprised of experienced professionals who provide one-on-one support to callers by assessing the victim’s needs and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to help them report, connect callers directly to the appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as early as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering the losses. The hotline is equipped 10 am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday Friday. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
A copy of this press release can be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Court documents and related information can be found on PACER by searching for the case number. 3: 21-cr-0068 (Emeni, et al).