A North Texas woman was convicted at trial of defrauding elderly victims in online-dating schemes, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton announced in a news release on Friday.
After seven days of trial, a jury convicted 33-year-old Ijeoma Okoro, of Aubrey, Texas, of one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“Ms. Okoro and her coconspirators stole money from retirement accounts, pensions and other sources as part of several romance scams,” said Christopher J. Altemus Jr., special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, in the release. “These individuals preyed on unsuspecting women and men, gaining their trust and confidence, in order to ultimately empty their bank accounts. This verdict should send a clear message to those who would consider conducting or participating in these types of fraudulent financial schemes.”
According to evidence presented at trial, the fraudsters assumed fake names and “trolled” dating sites such as Match.com and Zoosk, searching for targets, the release says.
Once they “ingratiated” themselves to victims — most were widowed or divorced — with promises of long-term commitment, they concocted elaborate stories about why they needed financial assistance, the release states.
A common story was the need to travel overseas for work and inability to access a bank account. To solve a work-related crisis or pay for urgent medical treatment for a family member, a fraudster would ask a victim to send money to cover the expenses, promising to pay them in the near future, according to the release.
The victims sent thousands of dollars to bank accounts opened by Okoro and her co-conspirators. Okoro distributed the fraudulent proceeds to her co-conspirators and claimed a cut for herself, according to the release.
She faces up to 20 years in federal prison on the wire fraud conspiracy and up to 10 years on the count of money laundering conspiracy. Okoro must also repay the victims.
The IRS Criminal Investigation led the investigation with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Frisco Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and Department of Labor Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary Walters, Jenna Rudoff and Elyse Lyons prosecuted the case.