New Jersey Husband And Wife Part Of Romance Scam Trio With 100 Victims And $4.5M Stolen | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

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Following their conspirators’ meeting and wooing of the victims on online dating sites, a husband and wife, formerly of Burlington County, New Jersey, along with a third codefendant, entered a guilty plea to tax evasion and other charges related to their roles in accepting millions of dollars in a romance fraud.

Martins Friday Inalegwu, 35, formerly of Maple Shade, New Jersey, pleaded guilty Monday to an information charging him with one count of conducting an unlawful money-transmitting business and four counts of tax evasion.

Inalegwu’s wife, Steincy Mathieu, 27, also formerly of Maple Shade, pleaded guilty on Nov. 28, 2023, to two counts of an indictment charging her with tax evasion.

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Oluwaseyi Fatolu, 56, of Springfield, New Jersey, pleaded guilty on Jan. 8, 2024, to a count of the indictment charging her with operating an unlawful money-transmitting business.

All three defendants pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Christine P. O’Hearn in Camden federal court.

“All fraud schemes hurt victims who end up losing part or all of their hard-earned fortunes, savings or retirements,” FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said. “However, romance scams take on an insidious level of harm. Few of us would want to admit we fell for this type of scam, but we’re all human and scammers prey on that fact. The subjects are owning up to their crimes, but it may not provide much solace for the victims left broke and heartbroken.”

From October 2016 to May 13, 2020, Inalegwu, Mathieu and their conspirators, several of whom reside in Nigeria, participated in an online romance scheme, defrauding more than 100 victims throughout the country.

The conspirators made initial contact with victims through on-line dating and social media websites, corresponded with victims via email and phone, pretended to strike up a romantic relationship with victims, wooed them with words of love, and then requested the victims send money to them, or their associates, for fictitious emergency needs. In all instances, the individuals whom the victims believed they were speaking to did not exist, and instead they were speaking to the conspirators of this scheme.  

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At the conspirators’ directions, victims wired money to bank accounts held by Inalegwu and Mathieu in the United States, and also mailed checks directly to Inalegwu and Mathieu. Some victims transferred money to Inalegwu and Mathieu via money transfer services, such as Western Union or MoneyGram, and others wired money to bank accounts held by conspirators overseas.

Federal law enforcement agents have identified more than 100 victims, who sent over $4.5 million directly to Inalegwu and Mathieu, and several million more to conspirators. In turn, Inalegwu and Mathieu spent the victims’ money on personal expenses, withdrew money in cash, transferred money to other bank accounts they personally controlled, and transferred money to bank accounts in Nigeria and Turkey. Inalegwu used the unlawful money transmitting service provided by Fatolu to unlawfully transfer a portion of the victim money to these foreign accounts. Inalegwu and Mathieu failed to pay any taxes on the millions of dollars they accepted from victims.

Each count of tax evasion is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Each count of conducting an unlawful money transmitting business is punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

“Romance scams can prove costly in terms of money, but they also cause great emotional harm to victims and their families,” Tammy Tomlins, Special Agent in Charge of IRS – Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, said. “The defendants cheated honest taxpayers out of millions and cheated the United States government by evading their tax liability. Today’s guilty plea demonstrates how IRS – Criminal Investigation special agents and our law enforcement partners continue to use our financial expertise to identify and investigate these types of schemes.”

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