A Nigerian man living in a Canton apartment who was part of a scheme to convince lonely seniors they were communicating with dashing American servicemen overseas who needed money - and who then moved into using people's personal information to obtain unemployment during the pandemic - was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in federal prison yesterday.
His brother, who helped funnel some of the more than $2 million the feds say their ring collected to buy real estate in Nigeria, was sentenced to 6 years in prison.
Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi, 37, who got the longer sentence, and Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi, 36, face deportation to Nigeria once they finish their sentences.
Federal prosecutors used that fact to argue for 11-year sentences for both brothers, because all of the money they wound up with now sits in Nigeria - much of it in the form of real estate and new houses - so there's little likelihood victims will ever see their money returned.
As the Court saw at trial, these crimes require two groups of co-conspirators: fraudsters overseas who are contacting victims and their counterparts in the United States who receive the victims' money. Even after their return to Nigeria, the defendants will have not only the proceeds from this scheme, but also every opportunity to participate in future schemes. Both defendants were born and raised in Nigeria and regularly travelled there prior to their arrest. And as the government demonstrated at trial, the defendants have a network of co-conspirators in Nigeria and surrounding West African countries.
Their victims, the government says, include:
P.C., who sent hundreds of thousands of dollars because she thought she was helping a man she met online pay for, among other things, his medical bills, and she thought she would be getting her money back one day. To finance these payments, P.C. depleted her life savings and borrowed from family and friends, some of whom no longer speak to her because she owes them money. In her victim impact statement, she described how "the emotional pain and psychological damage I have sustained was beyond measure" and that she has "had to beg for food and assistance to help me."
A federal jury convicted the brothers of bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy following a trial in June.
A third man who worked with the brothers, Macpherson Osemwegie of Hyde Park, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 32 months in prison. Other Nigerians living in the Boston area have also been arrested and convicted for online romance scams.
Attorneys for the two brothers asked US District Court Judge Patti Saris to sentence them to far shorter terms.
Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi's attorney argued that the sooner he is released, the sooner he can find work to repay his victims.
Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi's attorney wrote his client was fundamentally a good man with no prior record whose involvement in the scams was minimal - only to set up the bank accounts. He devoted the first three pages of his sentencing memorandum to Saris on his client's difficult upbringing in Nigeria and his decision to move to America to seek a better life as a personal-care attendant:
The rainy season in Nigeria was always difficult. It lasted months. The rusted aluminum roof on their single-floor home leaked. Rain constantly tapped on the concrete floor. It was difficult keeping the house dry, especially at dark by kerosene lantern light. The six of them would be lucky to receive even three hours of electricity a day. No one knew when it would be available. The lights would just turn on. If it came on while mom was at work, and the kids were in school, then they missed it. If a transformer blew, there might be a week without it. If it came on at night, it was a time to study, press school uniforms, and put water in the fridge, to cool it just a little before the power inevitably cut out again.
And when it rained, it poured. The backyard they used for fire was useless during these times. Every meal was already hard to come by. When there was no fire, it was the foot-tall table-top kerosene stove. Water falling from the sky was juxtaposed with the lack of running water inside the house. There was no sink. There was no shower. Baths were by bucket. Instead of a bathroom door, there was a sheet. Bodily functions were carried out in a communal hole dug in the ground, located as far away from the home as possible, underneath a makeshift aluminum awning. It would have to be moved periodically.
Things complicated when dad left for the United States to pursue religious missionary work. Dad lost his job as a government auditor after a change in the last political regime. Dad decided to pursue something else. Mom was left to raise all five kids alone, as best she could.
Government sentencing memorandum for both brothers (4.4M PDF).
Osakpamwan Henry Omoruyi sentencing memorandum (235k PDF).
Osaretin Godspower Omoruyi sentencing memorandum (93k PDF).