Three men face charges that they started up relationships with woman they contacted via Facebook from whom they eventually wrangled large payments - and used fake IDs to swindle state unemployment offices and the federal Small Business Administration out of funds intended to help people and companies hit by the pandemic.
Macpherson Osemwegie of 7 Lincoln St. in Hyde Park and Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi and Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi of Canton were charged with bank and wire-fraud conspiracy in a federal complaint unsealed today that says Osemwegie used some of the proceeds to support his family back home in Nigeria - and to buy a house there.
The US Attorney's office reports three other men, two also from Canton, one from Dorchester, were charged in a separate complaint with similar crimes.
An affidavit by an FBI agent describes patient men who would contact random women between their 50s and 80s across the country and string them along, sometimes for several years, pretending to be Army officers overseas, before finally asking the women for money. The account describes several of the swindles, including:
On or about February 26, 2020, I interviewed Victim 4, a 65-year-old woman who resides in Louisville, Kentucky, who reported that in or around April 2020, she received a Facebook "friend" request from a man name Larry Midkiff Richard ("Richard"). Richard told Victim 4 that he was in the United States Army, serving in Iraq. Victim 4 began texting with Richard, and they developed romantic ties. Victim 4 never met Richard in person.
According to Victim 4, Richard claimed that he needed to pay money to get out of military service, so that he could come and be with her. Richard asked Victim 4 to provide the money. Richard claimed that he had rescued a prince and had money at his disposal to pay her back later.
At Richard's direction, Victim 4 sent money to Clifford Bernard via multiple cashier's checks. Victim 4 sent the checks via FedEx to an unknown address in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. Victim 4 understood Bernard to be Richard's commanding officer who was receiving the funds needed for his release from military service.
The Hyde Park man allegedly got $30,000 from the woman.
Another case involved a 68-year-old woman in Virginia Beach, VA, who sold her house to help her supposed Army boyfriend help his non-existent daughter. And there was an 81-year-old woman in Oregon:
On or about May 12, 2018 and May 25, 2018, Victim 3, an 81-year-old woman who resides in Portland, Oregon, wired $2,000 and $20,000, respectively, to the Wood Eastern Bank account. According to a complaint filed by Victim 3's daughter, Victim 3 was the victim of a romance scam over a period of three years and sent the funds at the direction of her purported boyfriend.
In that case, the affidavit says, the bank realized something fishy was going on and froze most of the money, returning nearly $19,400 to the victim.
The emergence of the pandemic - and government unemployment and small-business programs gave the three new ways to siphon money, the affidavit continues:
United States Department of State Diplomatic Security Service investigators interviewed Victim 6, who stated, in sum and substance, that he had been notified by mail in or about April 2020 that he had been approved for unemployment assistance. At the time, Victim 6 was not unemployed, but worked as a nurse at Millinocket Regional Hospital, where he had been employed steadily for approximately 35 years. Victim 6 said he had not applied for unemployment since approximately 1975 and had not received any payments from MDL in 2020. Agents reviewed Victim 6's personal information and confirmed that the name, date of birth, Social Security number, previous employer, and home address used on the application all belonged to Victim 6. The Application for Pandemic Unemployment Insurance submitted using Victim 6's information incorrectly claimed that he was a physician who was laid off from the hospital in January of 2020.