Provo woman found guilty of $6M online romance scheme
Court records say woman and other defendants used fake profiles on social media websites to befriend potential victims, mostly widowed women over the age of 65
A federal jury in Salt Lake City found a Provo woman guilty on all charges related to an online romance scheme costing victims more than $6 million total.
Nelly Idowu, 39, was the last of four defendants to be convicted in the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. She was found guilty of one count of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering.
Court documents say the group — including Idowu, Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Julius Omene Fredrick and Nnamdi Joel Chukwu — used fake profiles on social media websites to befriend potential victims, mostly widowed women over the age of 65. They then used "false pretenses" to pressure those people to send them money, including telling them they had urgent financial needs, like helping a family member with a medical emergency or helping a stranded U.S. military member overseas, documents state.
That money was then spent by the codefendants and distributed, in part, to overseas accounts in China and Nigeria, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
"Through this scheme and conspiracy, the defendants and their coconspirators defrauded dozens of victims out of millions of dollars, which they laundered through accounts under the defendants' control," documents say.
This scheme went on from about May 2016 to July 31, 2020, according to court documents, with Idowu primarily participating from 2017 to 2019, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Adesotu was sentenced to a term of three years in prison and a restitution charge of $6.3 million, to be paid jointly with codefendants. Fredrick was ordered to spend four years in prison.
Idowu and Chukwu are scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 30.
The FBI encourages anyone in an online relationship to become familiar with the signs of romance scams, which can be found at FBI.gov. It also encourages victims of elder fraud to seek help at the National Elder Fraud Hotline, 833-372-8311, and online at the Office for Victims of Crime.