BOSTON – Two Nigerian nationals were arrested on Friday, June 12, 2020 and charged in connection with defrauding victims using various online scams during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nosayamen Iyalekhue, 33, and Esogie Osawaru, 27, were charged by criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud. The defendants were detained following an initial appearance.
According to the criminal complaint, Iyalekhue and Osawaru participated in a series of romance, pandemic unemployment insurance, and other online scams designed to defraud victims by convincing them to send money to accounts controlled by the defendants. To carry out the scams, the defendants allegedly used false foreign passports in the names of others, but with their photos, to open numerous bank accounts, and in turn directed the victims to send money to these accounts. Iyalekhue and Osawaru then rapidly withdrew the victims’ money from various bank branches and ATMs, often multiple times during a single day. It is alleged that the schemes included collecting unemployment insurance in the name of others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The charging statute provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, and forfeiture. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling and Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Miron Bloom of Lelling’s Securities, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the criminal complaint are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.