Seven Nigerian Pickers Arrested In U.S. For Laundering $8 Million Scam Proceeds

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Seven Nigerian men who acted as middlemen to receive $8 million proceeds of romance scams from the victims of Nigerian Internet fraudsters infamously called Yahoo Boys have been arrested and charged to court.


The suspects were identified as Bolanle Christina Odeyale, 39, Forney, Texas; Oghenemine Jeffrey Agbroko, 34, of Nigeria; Charles Owhonigho Emurotu, 40, of Ontario, Canada; Jimmy Iwezu, 44, of Forney, Texas; Lori Tsoritse, 38, of Nigeria; Christopher Onyedikachi Okereke, 38, of Nigeria; and Rukevwe Solomon Ologban, 44, of Grand Prairie, Texas, from March 2018 through June 2019, working with a group of individuals in the District of Utah, aka the Utah Money Transmitters, who agreed to help overseas operators launder money obtained from the romance scheme. The primary operators of the alleged romance scams are known as the β€œYahoo boys,” and operated in Nigeria.


The defendants either helped the Utah Money Transmitters source opportunities to work with Yahoo boys or helped them to transmit the fraud proceeds from the District of Utah to other places within the United States or abroad. Ultimately, the goal of the money laundering activities was to transmit the criminal proceeds to the Yahoo boys overseas, while paying a share of the financial gains to those who help move the funds along the way.


As alleged in the indictment, the Yahoo boys typically created a fictitious online persona and used the false persona to pursue online relationships with potential targets of the scam. Once gaining the victims’ trust, the Yahoo boys would use false pretence, such as the need to buy a laptop for a child in college, the need to repair equipment, pay an emergency medical expense or debt to the government. Many of the victims were elderly and lost their life savings, family inheritances and retirement funds. In return for their generosity, the victims were often promised the money would be returned.


An essential role in the romance scam was the Utah Money Transmitters. By operating in the District of Utah, they opened accounts at United States financial institutions to be used to collect money from victims and to distribute money to the co-conspirators, to conceal the ultimate destination of the funds and the Yahoo boys’ location and identities.


The defendants are charged with various federal crimes, including wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. Their initial court appearance on the indictment will be scheduled for a later date and held before a U.S. Magistrate Judge at the Orrin G. Hatch United States District Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.

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