Provo woman found guilty of money laundering in romance fraud case

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 24, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — A federal jury has found a Provo woman guilty of participating in an online romance scheme that cost dozens of victims more than $6 million.

Nelly Idowu, 39, was found guilty of one count of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering.

According to court documents and the evidence presented at trial, Idowu participated in an online romance scheme from 2017 to 2019 that involved creating fake online dating profiles to befriend and romance victims, says a news release issued by the Department of Justice, Utah State Attorney’s Office, District of Utah.

“These victims were primarily single women over 65 years old who were led to believe the fake persona they were engaging with had an urgent financial need,” the DOJ statement says. “Some of the bogus financial needs included helping family members with emergency medical costs, helping a United States military member stranded overseas, or claims of unique investment opportunities.

“None of these financial needs were legitimate. Victims sent money to Idowu and her codefendants for these false purposes. Idowu and her codefendants then sent a significant amount of the victim funds to overseas accounts in China and Nigeria.”

At trial, the United States presented evidence that Idowu’s personal and business accounts received more than $1 million from 2017 to 2019, and that additional amounts were received by Idowu’s coconspirators, the news release says.

“Victims testified they were victims of scams involving fictitious online romance partners,” the news release says. “They testified they sent the money to Idowu or her coconspirators as a result of the scam involving fictitious online romance partners.” 

Idowu’s sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 30 of next year.

Codefendants Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, and Julius Omene Fredrick were each previously convicted by guilty plea to a money laundering conspiracy. Adesotu was sentenced to a term of 36 months’ imprisonment and ordered to pay $6.3 million in restitution jointly with codefendants. Fredrick was sentenced to a term of 46 months’ imprisonment. Chukwu’s sentencing is set for Jan. 16 of next year.

U.S. Attorney, Trina A. Higgins for the District of Utah made the announcement. The case was investigated by the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Carl LeSueur and Mark Woolf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah presented the case at trial.

The FBI encourages those engaged in online relationships to review and become familiar with information about romance scams on its website Additionally, if you or someone you know has been a victim of elder fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline 833-FRAUD-11 or 833-372-8311 and online at the Office for Victims of Crime.


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