A 39-year-old Nigerian, Olaniyi Nasiru Ojikutu, has been sentenced to nearly seven and a half years in a United States prison for his role in a multi-year romance scheme.
The US prosecutors said Ojikutu, a permanent legal resident of the United States, opened about 25 bank accounts in his own name, a fake name, and a shell company name through which nearly $3.4 million in fraudulently obtained proceeds were transferred.
They disclosed that Ojikutu, alongside nine others, were indicted in a Chicago-based sting operation, Operation Gold Phish, that identified cybercrimes that targeted older people.
Ojikutu was sentenced to 88 months in prison on Wednesday after he was charged in 2019 with wire fraud in the operation, Fox32Chicago reported.
After he was charged Ojikutu fled to Canada by bus but he was arrested seven months later, with the Canadian authorities turning him over to the United States in January 2020.
He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud last July.
Prosecutors said that schemers in the U.S. and Nigeria targeted the older citizens and built trust with them through an online romance before stealing money from them, John Lausch, the U.S. Attorney for Northern Illinois, said in a statement.
Victims of the scam were contacted on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and on the mobile dating app, Match.com.
Ojikutu used the fraudulently obtained funds for his own personal benefit, including purchasing vehicles in the United States and shipping them to Nigeria for resale, prosecutors said on Thursday. As a result of Ojikutu’s actions, some victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, federal prosecutors announced.
All but one of the nine defendants in federal custody have pled guilty in this case. The scam’s alleged leader, Daniel Samuel Eta, who is also known as “Captain” and “Etaoko,” 35, of Skokie has pleaded not guilty and his case is still pending, federal prosecutors said.