Three Nigerian nationals, who were extradited from South Africa to the Southern District of Mississippi in July 2015, were sentenced to prison this week for their roles in a large-scale international fraud network.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco, Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain 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 made the announcement.
Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, was sentenced to 95 years in prison. Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, was sentenced to 115 years in prison. Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, was sentenced to 25 years in prison. After a three-week trial in early 2017, a federal jury found each defendant guilty of offenses involving mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and theft of government property. Ayelotan and Raheem were also found guilty of conspiracies to commit bank fraud and money laundering.
A total of 21 defendants were charged in this case, 12 of whom have pleaded guilty to charges related to the conspiracy, and 11 of whom have been sentenced to date. One of the leaders of the conspiracy, Teslim Olarewaju Kiriji, 30, of Nigeria was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison. Six other defendants were previously sentenced to 10 years in prison each for their roles in this conspiracy: Adekunle Adefila, 41, of Nigeria; Anuoluwapo Segun Adegbemigun, 40, of Nigeria; Gabriel Oludare Adeniran, 30, of Nigeria; Olufemi Obaro Omoraka, 27, of Nigeria; Taofeeq Olamilekan Oyelade, 32, of Nigeria; and Olusegun Seyi Shonekan, 34, of Nigeria. Genoveva Farfan, 45, of California, was sentenced to 9 years in prison, and Rhulane Fionah Hlungwane, 26, of South Africa, to five years in prison for their roles in the conspiracy. Olutoyin Ogunlade, 41, of New York, was sentenced to four years in prison. Dennis Brian Ladden, 75, of Wisconsin was sentenced to time served and six months’ home confinement. Susan Anne Villeneuve, 61, of California, pleaded guilty earlier this month and is awaiting sentencing.
According to the plea agreements and evidence at trial, 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.
To accomplish their fraud schemes, the conspirators 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. According to trial evidence and plea documents, 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.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated the case. Significant assistance was also provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the HSI Cyber Crimes Center, HSI Attachés in Pretoria, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal, the U.S. Marshals Service’s International Investigations Branch and the Southern District of Mississippi District Office, the South African Police Service (SAPS) Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (DPCI) Electronic Crimes Unit, the SAPS Interpol Extradition Unit, the South African National Prosecution Authority and the South African Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 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 tried the case.