How far would you go for love? Two lonely women in their 70s both fell for a scammer who pretended to woo them online. Now they’re out more than $75,000–and he’s headed to jail.
This week, a fraudster named Fortune Aikorogie pleaded guilty to romancing and robbing the women. The Massachusetts man connected with the women, both from Texas, and then convinced them to wire him more than $75,000 total.
Aikorogie used his connection to a friend in Zimbabwe to obtain a fake passport from that country, along with a US visa. He then allegedly used the documents to register for a bank account under a false name.
The fraudster romanced his elderly victims online, and they eventually wired him money. While we don’t know exactly what story he used, it’s likely to be a variation on the old Nigerian Prince scam.
In these situations, the scammer usually tells his victim that he needs the money for travel expenses, legal fees, or similar barriers to meeting them in person. The scammer will continue asking for money until the victim is either cleaned out or gets suspicious.
Aikorogie’s crime was discovered by a suspicious bank investigator. The scammer claimed to be using the wired money to help his uncle, who needed the cash for his (fictitious) construction business. The investigator asked Aikorogie to come in to his local branch or else his account would be closed. When he showed up with his fake documents, police arrested Aikorogoie on the spot.
The US Attorney’s Office of the District of Massachusetts charged him with making a false statement to a bank, visa and passport fraud, and money laundering. He pleaded guilty to the charges and will face sentencing in mid-October.
He faces up to 60 years in prison and $1,750,000 in fines if given the maximum possible sentence.
One of Aikorogie’s victims was a 71-year-old widow struggling with an advanced case of Parkinson’s disease. The other was a 78-year-old retiree. Although their identities have been shielded to protect them, their story is all too familiar.
Retirees are frequently targeted by scammers. Why? For one, it’s a good bet that they have money in savings. For another, elderly Americans are too often neglected and lonely. If they don’t have strong ties to family or community, a con artist can easily swoop in. These people are charming–at least at first. They give their victims just enough attention to fall for the scam.
After being robbed, elderly people are also less likely to go to their family or law enforcement for help. They may feel embarrassed about being tricked or even fear that they might lose their independence.