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Woman sentenced 6 years in prison for $6M online romance scam

By Cassidy Wixom

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    SALT LAKE CITY (KSL) — A Provo woman was sentenced Tuesday to six years in prison for money laundering in an online romance scam that prosecutors say cost victims more than $6 million.

Nelly Idowu, 39, is one of four defendants sentenced for the two-year scheme that defrauded dozens of victims out of millions of dollars. A federal jury found her guilty in October of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah.

From 2017 to 2019, Idowu created fake online dating profiles to befriend and romance victims, and along with her co-conspirators, led the victims to believe the fake persona they were interacting with had an urgent financial need, the attorney’s office said. Widowed and divorced women over 65 were the main targets of the scam.

Many of the victims suffered significant financial loss and in some cases, lost their entire life savings.

“Idowu and her co-conspirators preyed on unsuspecting and vulnerable victims,” said U.S. Attorney for Utah Trina A. Higgins. “The defendants gained their trust and convinced them to send large sums of money, leaving many of the victims in financial despair. My office, along with our law enforcement partners, will continue to prosecute these online scams, and seek justice for the victims.”

Shohini Sinha, special agent for the FBI’s Salt Lake division, said the FBI is committed to investigating perpetrators and raising awareness of romance scams. Victims of romance scams can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

“Scammers like Idowu know exactly how to prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities, and sadly, the financial and emotional consequences can be absolutely devastating,” Sinha said in a statement. “Think twice before you share personal information online, be wary of online suitors who are quick to establish a relationship and gain your trust, and don’t send money to someone you’ve never met.”

Idowu was sentenced to six years in prison with three years of supervised release. She and her co-defendants, Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, and Julius Omene Fredrick were ordered to pay $6,444,787.16 in restitution jointly.

Adesotu, Fredrick and Chukwu previously pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and were sentenced to 36 months, 46 months and 12 months’ imprisonment respectively.

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