Los Angeles Man Charged with his Nigeria-based Brother for Conspiring to Move Romance Scam Proceeds Through U.S. Bank Accounts to Nigerian Accounts
SAN FRANCISCO – Kinston Osagie appeared today in United States District Court to face a federal indictment charging him and Roland Ighiwiyisi, also known as Roland Osagie, with conspiring to commit money laundering and charging him alone in four additional counts of laundering money from women duped in online romance scams, announced Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and United States Secret Service Special Agent in Charge James E. Anderson, Jr.
Osagie, 53, based in Los Angeles, and Ighiwiyisi, 40, based in Nigeria, are alleged in the indictment to have conspired to launder proceeds obtained from victims of wire fraud. According to the indictment, Osagie opened at least 18 different U.S. bank accounts between January 2015 and August 2020 which received approximately $6 million in cash, check, and wire deposits. Of that amount, the indictment alleges $3 million dollars is traceable primarily to victims of romance fraud.
The indictment describes romance scams as online schemes that target susceptible individuals looking for romantic partners on dating and social websites such as Tinder and Match.com. Scam artists create profiles using intriguing names, photos, personas, and locations to draw their online victims into romantic relationships. Victims become convinced they are engaged in true romance – though the fake romantic partners offer myriad excuses why they cannot meet face to face – and eventually the victims are persuaded to send money or gifts to their fake partners, which is appropriated by the scam artists.
Osagie and Ighiwiyisi are both charged in one count of the indictment with conspiracy to commit money laundering from March 2019 to April 2020, a time period in which Osagie transferred fraud victims’ money to accounts owned or controlled by Ighiwiyisi. Osagie is also charged in the indictment with four additional counts of specific acts of laundering money from romance scam victims. Of these four counts, three charge Osagie with laundering a total of $267,000 obtained from one woman who sent money to help a fake male persona named “Merry Mattias” she had met through Match.com. The fourth count charges Osagie with laundering $20,300 sent by another woman to a different fake persona she met through the online platform Words with Friends.
According to the indictment, Ighiwiyisi is owner and director of a company incorporated in Nigeria, banks at a Nigeria-incorporated bank, and is living or has resided in Nigeria. Osagie and Ighiwiyisi, according to the indictment, discussed their common mother who lived in Nigeria.
Kinston Osagie and Roland Ighiwiyisi, aka Roland Osagie, are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(h). Kinston Osagie is charged additionally with four counts of money laundering in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000, as well as three years of supervised release once imprisonment ends. Any sentence following conviction would be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.
An indictment merely alleges that crimes have been committed, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Osagie was arraigned on the indictment’s charges today before United States Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in United District Court in San Francisco today. Osagie was released on a $100,000 bond. His next appearance is scheduled for July 23, 2021, at 11 a.m., before the Honorable Susan Illston, U.S. District Court Judge.
Mohit Gourisaria is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Nalini Rae Viavant, Mimi Lam, and Marina Ponomarchuk. The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the United States Secret Service.
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