Nigerian Man Gets 10-Year Sentence in US for Romance Fraud and BEC Schemes

On Monday, a Nigerian was found guilty of arranging to launder money obtained via online fraud schemes, and as a result, he was sentenced to 10 years and one month in jail as well as paying over $1.46 million in restitution.

Olugbenga Lawal, 33, of Indianapolis, Indiana, worked directly with the Nigeria-based leader of an international criminal organization that defrauded people and businesses across the United States out of millions of dollars, according to court documents and evidence presented at trial, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release.

The documents claim that they used complex internet-based fraud techniques, such as business email compromise and romance fraud, to execute these frauds.

The criminal group often preyed on older victims who thought they had developed romantic feelings for persons they had met online. Lawal then used the millions of dollars he had made from the fraud operations to launder money.

Millions of dollars that were directly linked to people and companies that the criminal organization had cheated online were deposited into bank accounts used by Lawal and his accomplices to launder money between January 2019 and June 2020.

Between January 2019 and May 2020, deposits totaling approximately $3.6 million were made into accounts under Lawal’s control. The deposits were made into seven separate bank accounts that Lawal opened either under his own name or the name of Luxe Logistics LLC, his company. In the end, Lawal was in charge of five separate financial institutions’ bank accounts in order to facilitate his money laundering.

Lawal also contributed to the money laundering activities of the criminal group by exchanging the fraudulent dollars placed in his accounts for Nigerian cash that was easily accessible in Nigeria.

In order to enable the repatriation of the organization’s fraud proceeds back to Nigeria, he engaged in currency exchange and import/export activities including the shipment of cars to Nigeria.

A federal jury found Lawal guilty on August 10, 2023, of plotting to launder money. Michael Hermann, Rita Assane, and Dwight Baines—three of the co-conspirators—had already entered guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

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