US Seeks To Seize $2 Million From Nigerian Man Arrested For Romance Scam
Nigerian man living in Georgia has been arrested and had his first appearance in federal court in Atlanta on charges of laundering the proceeds of romance scams that targeted victims in the Eastern District of North Carolina and throughout the United States.
According to court documents seen by SaharaReporters, Oluwadamilare Kolaogunbule, aka “Dare” opened, maintained, and controlled multiple bank accounts, referred to as “drop accounts” that were used to receive, move, and obscure criminal proceeds, including funds derived from romance scams.
A romance scam refers to a scheme in which scammers create fake profiles on Internet dating sites to identify victims, form fraudulent romantic relationships with them, and then exploit them for profit.
According to the allegations in the indictment, co-defendant Samuel Ugberaese, a/k/a” “Putsammy” a Nigerian national, and his co-conspirators, used romance scam techniques, including false stories and promises, as a means to defraud victims into transferring money on their behalf.
It is alleged that Kolaogunbule conspired with Ugberaese to conduct financial transactions through his bank accounts, including accounts registered to purported Georgia export companies, to conceal and disguise the nature, location, source, ownership, and control of the criminal proceeds.
The indictment seeks a forfeiture money judgment for at least $2,367,520 related to the schemes.
Kolaogunbule is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering and faces a maximum penalty of 240 months in prison if convicted.
“Romance scams are among the most prolific and despicable crimes of the digital age. Con artists outside of our borders stalk Internet dating websites for the sole purpose of taking advantage of individuals looking for companionship” stated United States Attorney Robert J. Higdon, Jr.
“They make false promises of love, but the victims—many of whom are older Americans—find only emotional and financial devastation. The losses associated with these crimes is staggering. According to theFBI’ss Internet Crime Complaint Center, romance scams produce greater reported financial losses than other online crimes.
“In 2019 alone, romance scams generated reported losses over $475 million. To move these criminal proceeds in and out of our financial system, the scammers often rely on domestic money launderers to help them avoid detection and maximise their profits.
“Disrupting these criminal networks and vindicating the rights of victims to see justice, with targeted investigations and prosecutions, will continue to be a top priority for my office.
“It takes a heartless person to prey on lonely, elderly people. Some of these victims were essentially robbed of their life savings so these conspirators could profit.”
“The FBI and our law enforcement partners are focused on holding offenders accountable who rip off our senior citizens,” said Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Charlotte.
Refugees Worldwide Face Rising Hunger Due to Funding Gaps Amidst Covid-19
Significant funding shortfalls across East and Southern Africa, as well as the Middle East, have forced ration cuts upon some of the world’s most vulnerable people who rely on WFP food to survive.
In East Africa alone, almost three-quarters of refugees have had their rations cut by up to 50 percent. In Southern Africa, refugees in Tanzania who depend entirely on WFP assistance have had their rations cut by almost one-third. Significant funding shortages for the Syria Regional Refugee Response mean 242,000 refugees in Jordan may be cut off from assistance at the end of August unless more funding is received.
“What we may be seeing is the impact of COVID-19 on donor government funding and this is negatively impacting our ability to respond and support some of the world’s most vulnerable people,” said Margot van der Velden, WFP Director of Emergencies. “The lives of the most marginalized people in the world are on the line and we are urging donors not to turn their backs on refugees when they need it most.”
To avoid any cuts in food assistance – either through reduced rations or excluding people from assistance altogether –sufficient funding is needed at least one month ahead of the expected break in the flow of food to the refugee-hosting countries.
The increasing funding gaps intersect with rising food prices and fewer opportunities for refugees to supplement their food assistance as informal economies shrink due to COVID-19 lockdowns.
Meanwhile, the number of people in desperate need is on the rise globally as conflict, disasters and economic meltdowns are driving up levels of hunger. WFP and other humanitarian agencies face brutal choices. In Rwanda, WFP has rolled out targeted food assistance prioritizing those most in need. Despite this, funding is so short that even the most vulnerable still aren’t receiving full rations, which come in the form of cash assistance.
“During COVID-19 lockdown, we couldn’t leave the camp and we couldn’t earn anything as all casual work outside the camp stopped,” said Ange, a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) living in Rwanda. “The situation got worse when our food ration was reduced. My family started facing a serious food shortage.”
Some of the most underfunded WFP operations are also ones with significant refugee populations requiring support. For example, in Uganda WFP supports more than 1.2 million refugees which is 65 percent of the country operations. A country funding shortfall of more than 80 percent has had significant impacts on refugees who rely on WFP assistance.
As a new WFP report indicates a surge in people teetering on the brink of famine – which has risen from 34 million projected at the beginning of the year to 41 million projected as of June – it’s vital that the world steps forward to support the most vulnerable.
WFP refugee operations impacted by funding shortages:
Chad: New refugee influxes from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) mean WFP may be forced to implement ration cuts and suspend/prioritize activities that will affect vulnerable groups depending on WFP’s support, particularly malnourished children.
Cameroon: WFP may be required to reduce the food rations for the most vulnerable beneficiaries, including 70,000 Nigerian and 100,000 CAR refugees.
Democratic Republic of Congo: In 2021, WFP has supported about 148,000 camp-based refugees in DRC, including the recent influx of about 92,000 refugees from CAR. Since May 2020, WFP DRC has been applying an average of 25% ration cuts to its refugee assistance programme.
East Africa: Funding shortfalls have forced ration cuts for over 3 million refugees of up to 60%. Rations were cut by 50% in South Sudan, 40% in Uganda and Kenya, 23% in Djibouti, 16% in Ethiopia and 8% in Rwanda.
Malawi: Under its refugee response, WFP Malawi rolled out cash-based transfers and kick-started livelihood support activities to enhance self-reliance for refugees. However, funding shortfalls have led to a 25% ration cut since July 2020.
Republic of Congo: WFP provides assistance to more than 20,000 refugees from CAR. Significant shortfalls have meant that food distribution cycles have been irregular.
Syria Refugee Regional: In the five countries where WFP supports Syrian refugees, USD 408 million is required for the next six months.
- In Jordan, at least 21,000 refugees will no longer receive WFP’s food assistance starting 1 July. If no additional funding materializes, WFP will have to cut off an additional 242,000 refugees at the end of August. Around 220,000 extremely vulnerable refugees in camps and communities will continue to receive WFP support through September.
- In Egypt, WFP – through joint targeting with UNHCR – is looking at prioritizing assistance to 110,000 people, reducing the number of beneficiaries by 20,000.
Tanzania: The WFP refugee operation faced significant funding shortfalls leading to ration cuts of up to 32 percent of the minimum calorie requirement since December 2020. Photos available here.
INEC To Begin Online Voters Registration on June 28
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Friday said it would begin the online voter registration, via its registration portal, on June 28.
The INEC National Commissioner, Mr. Festus Okoye, announced this at a news briefing on the preparations for the Gwaram bye-election in Dutse.
“The INEC Voter Registration Portal will be deployed to enable people to register online and thereafter go to their respective state or local government office of the commission to capture their biometrics and facials.
“Those that want to transfer their registration from one place to another can also make use of the online portal.
“Those that have prior issues of accreditation and with damaged or defaced PVCs can also use the online portal to rectify the challenge,’’ the commissioner explained.
Okoye also said that the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, would announce the time for the commencement of the physical registration at the end of the consultation with critical stakeholders.
He, therefore, appealed to all critical stakeholders to rave-up their voter education initiatives.
He also called on civil society groups and the media to assist in educating Nigerians on the import of online voter registration.
FG Sets Up Registration Portal For 10m Farmers To Capture Farm Details
The Federal Government said it has created an online portal to register about 10 million farmers, adding that process will enable it to capture their biography, geographical information of their farmlands, crops, and volumes of what they produce in the country.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, disclosed this during the opening ceremony of the 44th council meeting of the National Council on Agriculture and Rural Development (NCARD), yesterday, in Abuja.
Nanono said: “Although we initially set out to capture the data of 2.4 million farmers across the country, the results from the exercise have encouraged the economic sustainability plan team to expand the data capture to 10 million farmers.
“The database will be a platform for the Federal Government interventions going forward, putting an end to ghost schemes and other unscrupulous practices in the agricultural industry.
“A major hallmark of our agricultural interventions is inclusiveness. We have catered for the youths, women, and many demographic considerations in our implementation strategies.”
The Minister highlighted the outbreak of COVID-19, floods, and insecurity as some of the hiccups bedeviling the agricultural sector, which, however, prompted the government to set up a structural mechanism to address the problems.
According to him, the NCARD will promote the existing policies, programmes and projects at the national and sub-national levels for the purpose of entrenching synergy, best practices, entrepreneurship, livelihood and growth in the sector.
Meanwhile, the Minister of State of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mustapha Shehuri, hinted, that “Nigeria economy has its GDP contracted for two consecutive terms of the second and third quarter in 2020; leading to recession.”
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