SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — A federal jury convicted a Provo woman last week for her part in an online romance scam ring that took over $6 million from victims over a two-year period.
Nelly Idowu, 39, of Provo, was found guilty of two counts of money laundering and an additional count of money laundering conspiracy on Oct. 19, according to U.S. Attorney Trina Higgins. Codefendants Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, and Julius Omene Fredrick were each previously convicted by guilty plea to a money laundering conspiracy.
Adesotu was sentenced to a term of 36 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution jointly with codefendants. Fredrick was sentenced to a term of 46 months’ imprisonment.
Higgins said Idowu and her co-defendants created fake online dating profiles to “befriend and romance victims.” Generally, the victims were single women over 65 years old. Idowu led them to believe that the fake persona she was using had “an urgent financial need.” To some, Idowu claimed she was helping family members with emergency medical bills. To others, she claimed to be helping a U.S. service member “stranded overseas.” She also claimed to have unique investment opportunities.
“None of these financial needs were legitimate,” stated Higgins in a press release. “Victims sent money to Idowu and her codefendants for these false purposes. Idowu and her codefendants then sent a significant amount of the victim funds to overseas accounts in China and Nigeria.”
Idowu herself showed more than $1 million received in personal and business bank accounts from 2017 to 2019. Additional amounts were received by co-conspirators. Victims testified as part of the trial, said Higgins.
Idowu’s sentencing is set for Jan. 30, 2024, at the Orrin G. Hatch U.S. District Courthouse in Salt Lake City. Chukwu’s sentencing is set for January 16, 2024.
The FBI encourages those engaged in online relationships to review and become familiar with information about romance scams on its website FBI.gov. Additionally, if you or someone you know has been a victim of elder fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline 833-FRAUD-11 or 833-372-8311 and online at the Office for Victims of Crime.