A Nigerian Emmanuel Odiah has been sentenced to 54 months in U.S. federal prison after pleading guilty for money laundering.
The charge was in connection with a wire-fraud scheme that swindled victims out of more than $600,000.
U.S. Attorney Scott C. Blader, Western District of Wisconsin, announced the sentence.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
“Odiah participated in a scheme that manipulated elderly and other vulnerable individuals with a total disregard for the financial and emotional devastation it caused,” said U.S. Attorney Blader.
“Bringing those who prey on our seniors to justice is a top priority of my office.”
While in the United States on a visa, Emmanuel Odiah, 33, a citizen of Nigeria, most recently of Dallas, laundered money for a network of individuals perpetrating computer-based fraud schemes in Nigeria and Ghana.
This network defrauded victims throughout the United States out of money through a variety of schemes, including romance fraud.
Odiah’s role was to help collect, conceal, and redirect that money using bank accounts he maintained under two fake identities in the United States.
He was able to keep a percentage of the fraud proceeds as a fee for his assistance.
As part of the scheme, Odiah opened and maintained seven U.S. bank accounts to launder fraud proceeds.
He opened these accounts using fraudulent passports in the names “James Princeton” and “Ryan Greg Mornson.”
Between 2017 and 2019, more than $600,000 in fraud proceeds were deposited into these accounts.
Once money was deposited, Odiah, posing as Princeton and Mornson, used a series of smaller, less conspicuous financial transactions to distribute fraud proceeds to those perpetrating the fraud schemes overseas.
In announcing the sentence, the Court found that although Odiah’s role in the charged scheme was limited to money laundering, Odiah was aware that the money being deposited into his bank accounts was from vulnerable people being defrauded.
Odiah pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering Jan. 15, 2020.
U.S. District Judge William M. Conley also considered the tremendous psychological and financial devastation to victims caused by romance fraud and other computer-based fraud schemes.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Meredith P. Duchemin prosecuted the case.