Romance Scam Ringleader Gets 20 Years


Mug shot | Image by Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office/Facebook

A North Texas man who was the ringleader of a gang that scams elderly victims was sentenced to 20 years in prison, announced Tarrant County District Attorney Phil Sorrells on Tuesday.

Ifeanyichukwu Festus Obi was the leader of a gang called the “Yahoo Boys” that targeted the elderly for “romance” and other scams. These scams involved the creation of fake profiles to target widows and widowers in order to gain their trust and eventually exploit them for money, according to a press release from the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office. 

According to the press release, Obi sent $1.32 million in stolen money to Nigeria in a two-month span in 2019. Obi was convicted of “engaging in organized criminal activity and theft of property more than $300,000.” 

“These Nigerian scammers are calling our retired-elderly population all through the night, waking them up, stressing them out and compelling them to send their money far and wide,” said Assistant Criminal District Attorney Lori Varnell in the press release.

The case came about because of a 17-month investigation involving various local and federal entities, including the Colleyville Police Department, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspector, and Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office.

“This sentence sends a clear message. Tarrant County is not the place to bring your criminal enterprises,” said Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Phil Sorrells in the press release.

Colleyville Police Chief Michael Miller called the case complicated and said that he believes the sentence sends a message to criminals in Tarrant County. 

“I am proud of our team and our partners who worked diligently on this complicated case to bring justice to these victims. A sentence this significant for a financial crime sends a message that Tarrant County will not tolerate those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens,” said Miller in the press release. “Today, justice was served.”

Three others were indicted in this case: 35-year-old Olusegun Odunwole from Fort Worth, 33-year-old Saheed Akinyemi from Haslet, and 43-year-old Obianuju Orakposim from Arlington, per The Dallas Morning News.

All three were indicted for allegedly taking part in organized criminal activity and theft of property.

Odunwole is charged with theft of property valued between $2,500 and $30,000, Akinyemi’s indictment lists a value between $30,000 and $150,000, and Orakposim’s range is $300,000 to $1 million, per the DMN.

Scams of all types are being run in North Texas, as The Dallas Express continues to report. Coverage has pointed to romance scams such as these, but also online scams, phone scams, and even utility scams.

The elderly are a frequent target, with more than 92,000 victims over the age of 60 reporting $1.7 billion in losses to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in 2021.

In Dallas, where law enforcement is struggling to keep an ongoing wave of violent crime at bay, there were over 2,500 reported incidents of identity theft, confidence scams, credit card fraud, and other related crimes, according to the City of Dallas Open Data crime analytics dashboard

The University of Texas at Dallas police reported that their affiliates had lost nearly $50,000 to scammers this year alone. 

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