Romance scams have been a growing issue in recent years, with con artists using online dating websites to target vulnerable individuals, often older women, and trick them into sending them money.
Adedunmola Gbadegesin, a Nigerian national, was part of such a scheme that resulted in a Lexington woman losing around $200,000. On Friday, he was sentenced to 60 months in prison for one count of money laundering conspiracy.
Gbadegesin had previously told the court that he only committed these crimes to feed his family, but still expressed remorse for his actions.
The prosecution had recommended a 63-month sentence while his lawyer asked for 36 months, but the U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell ultimately decided on 60 months.
Along with the prison sentence, Gbadegesin must forfeit $38,000.
In September 2021, Gbadegesin was arrested in Nigeria and has been in custody ever since. Upon his release from prison, he will be on supervised release for three years and is expected to participate in vocational programs while incarcerated.
The scheme involved setting up fake online profiles on dating websites to lure victims and trick them into sending money, often under the guise of a romantic relationship. Gbadegesin worked with three other conspirators, all of whom lived in the U.S. at the time, to conceal the nature, source, ownership, and control of the funds obtained from the victims.
The case of the Lexington woman is just one example of the devastating impact of romance scams. The woman, in her 70s, sent $200,000 to what she believed was her boyfriend but was actually one of the conspirators.
She was even convinced to take out a home-equity loan before realizing she had been scammed. Another woman in western Kentucky lost $183,000 after being tricked into thinking her payments would qualify her for a grant.
Gbadegesin was indicted in October 2020 and was brought into federal custody in April after being flown from Nigeria to the U.S. Three other conspirators have already pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from one year and a day to four years and three months in prison.
The story of Adedunmola Gbadegesin serves as a cautionary tale for anyone using online dating websites. It is crucial to be cautious when sending money to someone you’ve only had contact with over the internet or by telephone.
Federal authorities also urge people to be vigilant and protect themselves from falling victim to similar scams.
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