Men sentenced in romance scheme that bilked widows out of millions of dollars

Posted at 10:56 AM, Feb 14, 2023

SALT LAKE CITY — Valentine's Day celebrates love, but sometimes romance isn't what it seems to be; the U.S. Department of Justice announced that three men living in Utah were sentenced for scams targeting over 100 victims, mostly widows over 65.

Over two years, the defendants defrauded victims out of more than $6 million, which they laundered through accounts they controlled.

David Oguoguo Okeke, 30, of Vineyard, Utah, was sentenced to 54 months in prison after pleading guilty to money laundering and ordered to pay $2,219,802.97 in restitution.

He will be deported after his prison sentence is served.

Okeke’s codefendants Justin Akubueze, 30, and Abiemwense Valentine Obanor, 32, also formerly of Vineyard, Utah, were sentenced to 54 months and ordered to pay $219,802.97 in restitution jointly with Okeke.

All were foreign nationals, who created fake identities through social media or online dating profiles, earned the trust of their victims, and developed relationships with them—then asked for money.

Sometimes they would tell the women that a U.S. military member was stranded overseas, that they knew of a great investment opportunities, or needed money for a business venture.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute fraudsters who take advantage of victims, many of whom are elderly, on a fixed income and lose money intended to carry them throughout the rest of their life,” said U.S. Attorney, Trina A. Higgins, for the District of Utah.

“Taking advantage of our most vulnerable population is unacceptable and with our law enforcement partners we are committed to investigating these crimes.”