LAGOS, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- A 40-year-Old Nigeria-American, Charles Obije, is facing time in US prison for his role in an online romance scheme targeted at elderly women and sending the scam proceeds worth $350,000 to his family in Nigeria.
The suspect, while trying to board a flight on 28 December, 2023, was taken into custody at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
According to Duluth News Tribune, Obije pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in St. Paul to conspiracy to commit international money laundering.
Obije reportedly helped launder more than $350,000 in stolen proceeds from online romance scams and other schemes.
Court documents states that Obije duped at least three older women of substantial funds by making them believe they were in long-running online relationships with a man, despite never meeting in person.
The suspect and his accomplices preyed on women, using false identities on social media and dating apps. To build relationships with trusting individuals, they stole the identities, personas, and even images of others.
The women were convinced to make numerous wire transfers, sometimes taking loans or second mortgages in order to help the man with a variety of fake expenses.
Federal prosecutors in the States said he was able to provide domestic bank accounts for the wire transfers. He then sent the bulk of the stolen funds to his father and brother in his home country of Nigeria.
Only one other party in the scheme has been publicly identified; Obije’s ex-sister-in-law, Ijeoma Chantavong, who pleaded guilty in October to the same charge and allegations.
The US Attorney’s Office indicated it would seek a prison term of up to 30 months for Obije, while he was free to “recommend whatever sentence he deems appropriate.”
Judge Donovan Frank did not immediately schedule a sentencing date.
The Prosecutors confirmed that Obije was a US citizen, which indicates he would not face deportation.
Pending sentencing, Obije is out on bond, but there could be prison time in the future.