2 Nigerian men jailed in Singapore for 'leadership' roles in transnational love scams
SINGAPORE — While based in Malaysia, Awolola Gbolahan Ayobami, 40, and Awolola Oladayo Opeyemi, 37, recruited money mules in Singapore to assist in receiving almost $900,000 from love scam victims.
Scammers would create false personas on social media, in order to cultivate a romantic relationship with victims and earn their trust before requesting money. The victims, usually middle aged women, would then make bank transfers or hand over cash to money mules.
Between 2017 and 2019, Ayobami and Opeyemi’s roles were to get into relationships with Singaporean women before recruiting them as mules to receive these funds. In doing so, they even had children with two of the women.
The duo were later arrested in Malaysia and extradited to Singapore, where they were charged.
Criminal conspiracy involving almost $900,000
On Tuesday (7 December), the two Nigerians behind the translational love scam syndicate were jailed.
Ayobami’s offences involved $220,724.50, while Opeyemi’s involved $661,352 in criminal proceeds laundered.
Ayobami was jailed for 50 months after he pleaded guilty to two counts of abetting in a conspiracy with someone to receive another person’s benefits from criminal conduct, and one count of abetting in a conspiracy with someone to intentionally obstruct the course of justice. Another four counts of a similar nature were considered for his sentencing.
Opeyemi was jailed for 60 months after he pleaded guilty to three out of seven counts of abetting in conspiracy with someone to receive another person’s benefits from criminal conduct.
He also pleaded guilty to one count of abetting in conspiracy with someone to intentionally obstruct the course of justice. The remaining charges were considered for his sentencing.
Leaders in an elaborate scam
Both men had entered Malaysia purportedly to further their education but played “integral roles” in helping a syndicate to launder their ill-gotten gains, said the prosecution. They also dealt with a scammer, known as Fola, who cheated love scam victims.
The three women recruited by Ayobami and Opeyemi would help the two men collect cash from the victims, and hand it over personally to Fola or the duo in Malaysia. They would also open bank accounts to receive monies for victims and withdraw the cash to pass on.
For one of the offences, Ayobami instructed the woman he had a child with to collect money from a victim, but she had been under investigation and her passport was impounded. The woman then arranged for her son to pass the cash to Ayobami.
The prosecution, represented by Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li, submitted that the two were "no mere foot soldiers", but had been leaders in the scam.
The degree of planning and premeditation they showed was significant. When three money mules were called up by the police for investigations, the two Nigerians instructed them to lie.
"These steps were clearly taken with a view to masking their involvement and shows the degree of planning and premeditation that they had engaged in," said DPP Li.
Furthermore, the division of labour made it hard for the authorities to investigate the offences, as money went through the hands of seemingly unrelated individuals.
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