SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A Los Angeles man and his Nigeria-based brother were charged in San Francisco federal court Monday for allegedly duping women out of millions of dollars through online romance scams.
In a joint statement, Acting United States Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds and Secret Service Special Agent in Charge James E. Anderson, Jr said Kinston Osagie and his brother, Roland Ighiwiyisi, have been charged with several counts of money laundering.READ MORE: Massive Ash Cloud Turns Tonga Into Moonscape; Anxiety Mounts Among Bay Area Tongans
Osagie appeared in court and was released on a $100,000 bond. His next court appearance is scheduled for July 23, 2021. Ighiwiyisi remains in Nigeria.
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.
Prosecutors describe the romance scams as online schemes that targeted susceptible individuals looking for romantic partners on dating and social websites such as Tinder and Match.com.READ MORE: Marin County Hosting Public Meeting on Larkspur Homeless Housing Project
The scam artists created profiles using intriguing names, photos, personas and locations to draw their online victims into romantic relationships. The victims become convinced they were engaged in true romance – though the fake romantic partners offer myriad excuses why they cannot meet face to face.
Eventually, the victims were persuaded to send money or gifts to their fake partners.
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.MORE NEWS: Hundreds of Kaiser Mental Health Clinicians Demand Better Care For People Of Color
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.