Olufolajimi Abegunde, a 32-year-old Nigerian resident in Atlanta, Georgia has been sentenced to 78 months in prison for his role in a cyber fraud scheme.
According to a statement on the US department of Justice website, the announcement was made by the Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee.
Abegunde was sentenced on Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Sheryl L. Lipman of the Western District of Tennessee. Lipman also ordered Abegunde to pay $57,911.62 in restitution to the victims of his offense.
Earlier in March 2019, Abegunde and another suspect, Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso were convicted after a seven-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Ramos-Alonso received a 31-month sentence for his role in the crime.
The statement explained further that Abegunde and Ramos-Alonso participated in a criminal organisation in which they “spoofed” emails and created fake profiles on dating websites in order to fool victims into sending money to bogus bank accounts under the control of members of the conspiracy.
Abegunde and his criminal organization is believed to have caused more than $10,000,000 in damage to U.S. citizens and businesses. According to the
statement, the proceeds were laundered and subsequently wired out of the United States to destinations including West Africa.
“The evidence presented at trial showed that Abegunde engaged in black-market currency exchanges over the life of the conspiracy.
“Purporting to hold himself out as a legitimate businessman, Abegunde claimed association with a business entity that was not yet operational in late 2017, so for his primary source of income he relied on his off-the-book currency exchanges.
“Through this network, Abegunde played a key role, along with Ramos-Alonso, in laundering fraud funds from an Oct. 3, 2016, business email compromise (BEC) of a land title company located in Bellingham, Washington. The proceeds of another BEC perpetrated in July 2016 upon a real estate company in Memphis, Tennessee, also moved through parts of the same criminal organization,’’ the statement read in part.
Abegunde faced numerous account closures from banks in the United States and used a complicated network of third-party bank accounts to disguise his illicit activity.
He is also accused of engaging in a conspiracy to commit marriage fraud.
“Abegunde was married during his studies at Texas A&M, but divorced his wife in 2016 to marry a U.S. service member through whom he could obtain immigration and health care benefits and also open new bank accounts. He continued to live with his first wife in Atlanta while his U.S. service member wife was deployed to South Korea.
“While incarcerated and awaiting trial in the Western District of Tennessee, Abegunde continued his conspiratorial activities, trying to convince his fake spouse, who has since filed for divorce, to refuse to testify against him. Abegunde also engaged in witness tampering by sending a self-written Motion to Dismiss bearing his former attorney’s name and professional attestation. The evidence at trial established that Abegunde drafted and sent the motion, which his attorney expressly did not authorize, to his faux spouse in an effort to deceive her into not testifying against him,” the statement read.
Five other individuals have, however, pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme. Additionally, several foreign nationals are awaiting extradition to the United States to face trial and others are still at large.
The case was investigated by FBI’s Memphis Field Office with assistance from agents in Atlanta and San Jose, California.
Abegunde holds an MBA in Business Administration from Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas.