Nigerians sentenced for ‘romance scheme’ that used Alabama business to launder money

Published 5:44 pm Friday, January 21, 2022

Two Nigerian men living in New Jersey were sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to laundering money stolen in an online “romance scam” and other schemes through unwitting businesses, including one in Alabama, authorities said Friday.

Paulinus Ebhodaghe, 40, of Clementon, New Jersey, was sentenced to almost four years in prison and Ohimai Asikhia, 37, of Glassboro, New Jersey, was sentenced to 1.5 years in prison, prosecutors said in a news release. Both men, described as Nigerian nationals, pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to launder money in 2018,

The men were accused of helping launder hundreds of thousands of dollars that were taken in online scams including a “romance” scheme where email, dating site or social media users assume an identity and feign interest in someone in hopes of getting them to send money, court documents show.

Members of the conspiracy created fake email accounts to impersonate legitimate companies and vendors and contact victim companies where individuals were instructed to receive and transfer money, an indictment said. One of the companies that was targeted was in north Alabama, prosecutors alleged, but the company was not identified in court papers.

The charges detailed a series of money transfers ranging in size from a few thousand dollars to nearly $115,000 over the course of months. Money was sent to bank accounts in Nigeria and used to purchase cars that were shipped overseas.

Ebhodaghe and Asikhia usually received fees of at least 20% of the money they moved, prosecutors alleged.