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Provo woman sentenced to 6 years in prison, $6.4 million in restitution for online romance scam

Jan 30, 2024, 6:38 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2024, 10:00 am

FILE: hand on laptop keyboard...

FILE: hand on laptop keyboard

SALT LAKE CITY — A Provo woman, Nelly Idowu, was sentenced Tuesday to six years of prison time and ordered to jointly pay $6.4 million in restitution to the victims of an online romance scam.

Idowu, 39, was found guilty by a federal jury on Oct. 19, 2023, of money laundering conspiracy and two counts of money laundering in an online romance scam.

The scam took place from 2017 to 2019, according to evidence presented at the trial. Idowu participated in the scheme by creating fake online dating profiles to romantically lure and befriend widowed or divorced women over the age of 65. The victims yielded the four perpetrators over $6 million in stolen funds.

Idowu and her codefendants led the victims to believe the fake people had an urgent financial need, pretending they had a family member that had emergency medical bills, or helping a U.S. military member overseas.

Many victims testified in court, stating they had sent the money to Idowu or her codefendants, and Idowu’s personal business accounts received more than $1 million, according to evidence. A significant amount of the funds were also sent to accounts overseas in China and Nigeria.

Utah woman guilty in online dating scam, taking over $6 million

Many of the victims were hit with large financial losses in the final years of their lives; some of them lost their entire life savings on the belief they were helping someone, according to the District Attorney’s Office.

“Scammers like Idowu know exactly how to prey on their victims’ vulnerabilities, and sadly, the financial and emotional consequences can be absolutely devastating,” said Shohini Sinha, special Agent in charge of the Salt Lake City FBI.

Idowu was convicted alongside Emmanuel Osaigbovo Adesotu, Nnamdi Joel Chukwu, and Julius Omene Fredrick, who were all convicted of money laundering conspiracy. Fredrick was sentenced to 46 months in prison; Adesotu, 3 years; and Chukwu, one year in prison. All four codefendants were ordered to jointly pay $6,444,787.16 in restitution for the victims.

“Think twice before you share personal information online, beware of online suitors who are quick to establish a relationship and gain your trust, and don’t send money to someone you’ve never met,” Sinha said. “If you think you’re a victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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Provo woman sentenced to 6 years in prison, $6.4 million in restitution for online romance scam