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Man helps swindle millions in online romance scams, feds say

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A 34-year-old man living in Orem, Utah, was sentenced to 63 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. He’s accused of helping swindle $8.4 million in romance scams, officials said.

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A 34-year-old Utah man helped swindle $8.4 million in romance scams that tricked more than 350 people, prosecutors said.

Jeffersonking Anyanwu, of Orem, was sentenced to 63 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Utah said in a May 11 news release.

Anyanwu was among eight people charged in the romance scams that created fake online profiles as 55- to 65-year-old men to target women who were divorced, having issues in their marriages or widowed, the news release states.

His attorney did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on May 11.

Anyanwu and the other defendants scammed people through dating apps, social media and online games, including word searches or word puzzle games.

In one example, Anyanwu and others posed as a U.S. general to trick a 74-year-old woman on social media to send them $140,150, according to the indictment.

They pretended to be a general stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who was deployed overseas and needed his “portfolio” released after it became restricted due to customs fees, the indictment shows.

The woman then sent checks to an address in Vineyard, Utah, to four of the other defendants who deposited the money, court documents show.

The defendants posed as real U.S. generals at least three times to scam women, according to the indictment.

They also acted as businessmen working on oil rig projects who needed money to finish their projects, which they promised would be an investment that would later be returned, the release states.

Anyanwu is accused of setting up bank accounts to receive the money the victims sent in the scam before depositing the money for himself or sending the money overseas, the indictment shows.

The scam went from 2017 to 2019.

Fiver other defendants have already pleaded guilty and been sentenced, including:

  • Onoriode Kenneth Adigbolo was sentenced to 36 months in prison.
  • Daniel Negedu and Richard Bassey Ukorebi were sentenced to 51 months.
  • David Maduagu was sentenced to 26 months.
  • Adriana Sotelo was sentenced to 12 months in home confinement.

Cases are pending for the two remaining defendants, the release states.

All defendants were ordered to jointly pay $8.4 million in restitution.

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter covering the state of Washington and the western region. She’s a journalism graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s based in Phoenix.




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