Romance scammer gets 25 years in prison for money laundering

ATLANTA (AP) — A Georgia man found guilty of laundering millions of dollars accrued by online fraud, including scamming vulnerable people on dating websites, was sentenced Monday to 25 years in prison.

Elvis Eghosa Ogiekpolor was convicted earlier this year of one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 15 counts of substantive money laundering.

Thirteen victims of romance fraud testified at his federal trial. One of them said she was convinced to send nearly $70,000 to a scammer she met on eHarmony.

“Ogiekpolor and his co-conspirators were part of a broader international network of online fraudsters and money launderers who wreaked havoc and devastation on unsuspecting individuals and businesses,” said Ryan Buchanan, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia.

Ogiekpolor directed “money mules” to open at least 50 fraudulent business bank accounts that received more than $9.5 million dollars from various online frauds from October 2018 to August 2020, according to a statement from Buchanan's office.

Ogiekpolor then laundered the money using other accounts, including dozens overseas, the statement said.

Some of the money came from romance scams; fraudsters created fake online dating profiles and targeted vulnerable individuals who had significant financial assets, such as retired widows or widowers.

Multiple victims, mainly women, testified that they had met strangers online and were convinced over the course of months that they were in romantic relationships, despite never meeting the men in person. Often the scammers claimed they wanted to start a life with their victims, but that it couldn't happen until an issue was resolved that required a large amount of cash.

U.S. District Judge William Ray II in Atlanta sentenced Ogiekpolor, 46, to 25 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

A hearing to determine the amount of restitution that Ogiekpolor must pay will be scheduled for a later date.