Nigerian national sentenced to prison for role in romance fraud and money laundering scheme

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HUNTINGTON — Kenneth Ogudu, also known as Kenneth Lee, 28, a citizen of Nigeria residing in Columbus, Ohio, was sentenced earlier this month to two years and two months in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to a news release. Ogudu was also ordered to pay $324,865.85 in restitution. According to court documents and statements made in court, from May 2019 to Oct. 8, 2020, Ogudu participated in a romance fraud scheme that defrauded more than 200 victims, many of them elderly, of at least $2.5 million.

Ogudu was living in Huntington during part of this conspiracy, from May 2019 to December 2019. The scheme targeted individuals looking for romantic partners, friendship and other close personal and business relationships on dating websites and other social media platforms. The conspirators created profiles using fictitious names, locations and images that allowed Ogudu and other co-conspirators to contact victims and cultivate relationships with them. Induced into believing they were in a romantic relationship, friendship or business relationship with the false personas, the
victims were persuaded to send money for a variety of false and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of the false personas.

Ogudu admitted that he allowed victims to transfer money to his bank account that he knew was from unlawful activity. Ogudu kept some of the money for himself and forwarded some of the money to his co-conspirators via wire transfers or Zelle. Ogudu admitted that he disguised the illegal nature of the money being transferred, adding another layer to the fraud and money laundering scheme. Ogudu further admitted that he and his co-conspirators transferred large sums of their fraud proceeds to offshore accounts. Ogudu obtained funds from at least 12 different fraud victims during the money laundering conspiracy.

United States Attorney Will Thompson commended the investigative work of the United States
Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General, the West Virginia State Police and the South Charleston Police Department.

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