As the digital world has evolved, millions of Americans have become comfortable with the world of online dating. However, social media and dating apps have their costs. Romance scams are committed by individuals with fake dating profiles, posing as lovers and attempting to get money from their victims. A large majority of the victims of fictitious online romance partners are senior citizens because they have large nest eggs and are often widowers, widows, or divorcees who are struggling with loss.
It’s not hard to figure out why this happens. It is more common now because most of us have access to the internet, and we are glued to our gadgets. Estimates show that American consumers lost more than $1.3 billion in romance scams between 2017 and 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Some people reported that scams involving fictitious online romance partners have increased tenfold during that same period. Over 70 year olds experienced the highest losses of this true crime, with a median of $9,000.
How a Utah County Woman Got Involved in an Online Dating Scam that Cost Her Victims Over $6 Million
In a trial of a two year wire fraud case, a federal jury last week found a Provo woman from the district of Utah guilty of taking over $6 million from victims.
U.S. Attorney Trina Higgins, found the 39 year old woman from Provo, with the name Nelly Idowu, guilty of a conspiracy to launder money and two counts of money laundering. Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, Julius Omene Fredrick, and codefendants Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, from the district of Utah, were all previously convicted of money laundering conspiracy by guilty pleas.
According to the latest crime news, part of Adesotu’s sentence for this true crime is to pay $6.3 million in restitution to his codefendants and serve 36 months in prison. An imprisonment term of 46 months was imposed on Fredrick.
In general, the victims were elderly single 65 years old women, who were befriended and romanced via fake online dating profiles created by Idowu, and her co-defendants. As a result of Idowu’s false representation, they believed she had an “urgent need for money.”
The needs Idowu stated included providing emergency medical costs for family members, helping foreign military members stranded overseas, and offering unique investment opportunities. The real crime is that Idowu received money from victims for what they thought were financial needs, but none of these claims were real, according to Trina A. Higgins during a press release.
Idowu and her codefendants received money from victims for these fraudulent purposes. The victim funds were then sent to overseas accounts in China and Nigeria by Idowu and her codefendants.
Throughout 2018 and 2019, Idowu received over $1 million in personal bank accounts and business accounts. Co-conspirators also received additional amounts. Trina A. Higgins said that victims testified during the trial.
The latest crime news has made it possible for Salt Lake City’s residents to hear Idowu’s sentencing on Jan. 30, 2024. Chukwu’s sentencing date is slated for January 16, 2024. For information about wire fraud, visit the FBI’s website for those engaging in online relationships.
The FBI’s Investigation
In a recent press release from the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office, a complex case involving multiple trials and a significant financial impact on the victim has come to light. Following a romantic relationship and claims of unique investment opportunities, the final defendant from M. Salt Lake City faced felony charges of conspiracy related to fake online dating accounts. Idowu’s sentencing was the result of a thorough investigation by the Assistant United States Attorneys and the FBI Salt Lake City Division.
The jury’s verdict convicted the Utah woman, highlighting the severity of the crimes that affected business bank accounts and multiple credit cards. The case, originating in Downtown Salt Lake City courts, involved federal authorities and the U.S. Attorney Trina A. Inalegwu, Mathieu, and others were co-conspirators in a scheme that included wire transfers and exploitation of vulnerable individuals.
The press releases underscore the collaborative efforts of local and international law enforcement partners in addressing the growing issue of internet romance scams. As the defendant faces potential prison time, the U.S. Department of Justice’s human trafficking investigation in Hopkinsville issued a new hate crime warning to serve as a reminder of the diverse challenges authorities navigate in safeguarding communities in Provo.
The case involving Steincy Mathieu has taken a grave turn as it unfolds with numerous felony charges. Mathieu is accused of orchestrating a complex conspiracy, facing charges of conspiracy and additional counts related to substantial sums of money. The FBI Salt Lake City Division, led by Mark Woolf of the U.S. Attorney, is delving into the intricate web of fake online dating accounts allegedly operated in M. Salt Lake City.
The charges brought forth by U.S. Attorney Trina A. paint a picture of a sophisticated scheme that has affected numerous individuals, including a 39 year old resident of Provo. Phone calls and medical bills are part of the evidence, revealing the extent of the impact on victims, particularly single elderly women who were targeted. The case takes on an international dimension with the arrest of 33 year old Abdullahi, indicating a potential connection to a broader human trafficking investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Staying Protected Against Online Romance Scheme
Make sure you think before you post online. Consider the content of posts, criminal organizations who may see them, and the impact they might have on you or other individuals.
Using sensitive or revealing information, criminal organizations exploit people’s interests to attract them. In addition to creating alternate personas, scammers take it a step further and do so with ill intentions.
2. Pay attention to your profile settings
You may want to set your social media profiles to “private” to prevent scammers from contacting and targeting you. When you make your profile public, scammers can easily find you and read your photos and posts.
3. Do not act without thinking
If you receive a communication asking for personal information or requiring immediate action, be cautious. If you do not know the sender of the email, never send personal information through it. Avoid people that have a fake persona and an urgent financial need, without any evidence.
4. If in doubt, toss it out
It is easy for cybercriminals to gain access to your information through links in online advertising, tweets, emails, posts, texts, and social media messages. Don’t click on links or download anything you weren’t expecting or that comes from a stranger.
5. Do a reverse photo search
You can check the potential scammer’s profile picture with a reverse image search if you are not sure if you are being scammed. In some cases, the image could belong to a completely different person or have been associated with a completely different online persona.
What to do when you Fall Victim to a Case of Identity Theft
It is important to take the following steps if you suspect you have been targeted by a scam:
- Immediately cease all communication with the scammer and file for felony charges.
- You may be able to identify the scammer by their email address or IP address if you have it. Make a note of any contact information and take screenshots.
- If you believe you have given money to a scammer, contact your bank or credit card company.
- Federal Trade Commission and FBI should be notified of the scam.
- Scammers should be reported to the website or app where they were met. Investigators might be able to learn more about the scammer from them.
You can use local news, the latest breaking news, crime related news to seek help in the case of true crimes such as mail fraud, hate crime, or stolen credit cards.
If a criminal complaint is laid by some scammed victims and court records from a federal court emerge, the person with felony charges can serve a prison term after a search warrant is ordered by federal prosecutors. Watch out for additional counts of money fraud from the Southern Utah, Hopkinsville police, and Los Angeles police departments.
Nowadays, as American citizens, finding out which profiles on a dating site are genuine and which are “fake news” is often difficult. Report immediately and file a criminal complaint when you or someone else gets scammed on an online dating site by a person posing as someone else.
Victims of crime can take evidence to the U.S. Attorney’s office such as court documents and a press release to have a trial and help the case of identity theft. This will help victims of scams and dozens of victims get justice