SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The last defendant in a multi-million dollar romance scam that targeted divorced or widowed women over 65 years old was sentenced on Tuesday, Jan. 30.
A federal jury found Nelly Idowu, 39, of Provo, guilty of one count of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering in an online romance scam. She was sentenced to six years imprisonment and three years on supervised release.
Idowu was one of four people who participated in the online romance scheme. She and her co-conspirators — Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nmamdi Joel Chukwu and Julius Omene Fredrick — created fake online dating profiles and used them to befriend and romance victims.
Adesotu was sentenced to three years in prison, Chukwu was sentenced to serve one year and Fredrick was sentenced to nearly four years. Each defendant was ordered by the court to jointly pay over $6.4 million in restitution for the victims.
Prosecutors said the scammers’ victims were mostly divorced or windowed women over the age of 65.
The four made their victims believe in fake personas, which had an “urgent and financial need,” none of which were legitimate. The victims would then send money to the scammers in a good-faith attempt to help. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah said that many of the victims suffered significant financial loss in the final years of life, with some losing their entire life savings.
“Idowu and her co-conspirators preyed on unsuspecting and vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney Trina A. Higgins of the District of Utah. “The defendants gained their trust and convinced them to send large sums of money, leaving many of the victims in financial despair. My office, along with law enforcement partners, will continue to prosecute these online scams and seek justice for the victims.”
Salt Lake City FBI Special Agent Shohini Sinha said scammers like Idowu and her co-conspirators know exactly how to prey on their victims.
“The FBI is committed to investigating these perpetrators and continuously works to raise awareness about romance scams,” said Sinha. “Think twice before you share personal information online, be wary of online suitors who are quick to establish a relationship and gain your trust and don’t send money to someone you’ve never met.”
If you believe you may be a victim of a romance scam, Sinha encourages you to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Additionally, if you or someone you know has been a victim of elder fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311) and online at the Office for Victims of Crime.