FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, December 19, 2022
Nigerian National Sentenced to Prison for Role in Fraud and Money Laundering Scheme
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Kenneth Emeni, 30, a citizen of Nigeria residing in Martinsburg, was sentenced today to one year and one day in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit money laundering. Emeni was also ordered to pay $904,126.96 in restitution.
According to court documents and statements made in court, from at least August 2017 to October 8, 2020, Emeni took part in a Huntington-based scheme that defrauded at least 200 victims, many of whom are elderly, of at least $2.5 million. Emeni’s co-conspirators created false personas to establish romantic, friendship or business relationships with unwitting individuals via email, text messaging or online dating and social media websites. The victims were persuaded to send money for a variety of false and fraudulent reasons for the benefit of the false personas.
Emeni admitted that he accepted money transfers from victims to his bank account that he knew was from unlawful activity. Once the victims’ funds were deposited in his account, Emeni kept some and forwarded some to his co-conspirators via wire transfers or the Zelle digital payments network. Emeni received approximately $42,050 transferred by his co-conspirators’ transfers and transferred approximately $46,197 to his co-conspirators during the money laundering conspiracy. Emeni further admitted that he and his co-conspirators transferred large sums of their fraud proceeds to offshore accounts. From 2018 until 2020, Emeni transferred over $358,846 to accounts in Nigeria and Ghana.
“This heartless conspiracy exploited individuals who often were particularly vulnerable, and wreaked havoc in their lives and that of their loved ones,” said United States Attorney Will Thompson. “I commend the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General (FDIC-OIG), the West Virginia State Police and the South Charleston Police Department.”
United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorneys Kathleen Robeson and R. Gregory McVey prosecuted the case.
The public is encouraged to report potential online fraud activity or scams at https://www.ic3.gov.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim, and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed 10am-6pm Eastern Time, Monday-Friday. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-68.
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