Three Nigerians were convicted in a U.S. district court this week for carrying out an elaborate fraud scheme that spanned at least 16 years, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
A U.S. attorney at the Southern District of Mississippi court sentenced Rasaq Aderoju Raheem to 115 years in prison, Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan to 95 years in prison, and Femi Alexander Mewase to 25 years in prison, the Justice Department said in a statement. The three were extradited from South Africa to Mississippi in July 2015.
Each defendant was found guilty of crimes involving mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud, and theft of government property. Raheem and Ayetolan were also convicted for their involvement in conspiracies to commit bank fraud and money laundering.
"According to the plea agreements and evidence at trial, the defendants and their co-conspirators carried out numerous internet-based fraud schemes dating back at least to 2001," the Justice Department said. "These schemes involved using unsuspecting victims to cash counterfeit checks and money orders, using stolen credit card numbers to purchase electronics and other merchandise and using stolen personal identification information to take over victims’ bank accounts."
The scheme involved tens of millions of dollars in intended losses, according to the government.
The conspirators often carried out the plots by using false identities on a dating website to build a romantic relationship with U.S. citizens. The perpetrator would then convince the victim to either send them money or assist in carrying out the fraud schemes.
The three defendants told authorities they often used their victims to launder money through Western Union and MoneyGram and to cash counterfeit checks.
Nearly two dozen others, most of whom are Nigerian, were charged in the scheme. More than half have pleaded guilty so far.