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August 11, 2014Fairview Heights, IL, United StatesFinancial Crimes

Nigerian man arrested in UK on Illinois fraud charges

FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill. — A Nigerian national, who is wanted in Illinois for scamming women in the United States, was arrested in London Saturday as he attempted to board a flight to South Africa.

This arrest was announced by Stephen R. Wigginton, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois. This case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's St. Louis Field Office of the Chicago Division. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in St. Louis and the Fairview Heights office of U.S. Secret Service assisted in the investigation.

Olayinka Ilumsa Sunmola, 31, of Lagos, Nigeria, was arrested Aug. 9 in connection with a recently unsealed indictment returned by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of Illinois. Sunmola was arrested by London Metropolitan Police at Heathrow Airport as he was about to board a British Airways flight bound for Johannesburg, South Africa, where he currently resides and conducts his activities.

Sunmola was indicted Nov. 20 in an eight-count suppressed indictment charging him with various federal criminal offenses in connection with his operation of a romance scam targeting women in the United States. According to the indictment, Sunmola created several bogus online profiles on dating websites portraying himself as a U.S. citizen currently or formerly in the U.S. military and temporarily doing business in South Africa. The indictment alleges that Sunmola victimized least 30 women in the United States.

Over the course of several months, the indictment states, Sunmola cultivated a romantic relationship with each victim by sending flowers, stuffed animals, greeting cards and candy. His purpose was to lead each of his victims to believe that she was his one true love, his sole love interest and the woman with whom he intended to spend the rest of his life, the indictment states.

After successfully drawing women into a romantic relationship, Sunmola began manufacturing phony emergencies requiring increasingly large amounts of money from his victims. He played upon each victim's romantic feelings and vulnerability, and manipulated and groomed them to bilk them of their cash, assets and credit worthiness.

One victim described in the indictment was unwittingly drawn into a scheme involving counterfeit or stolen traveler's checks. As a result of her innocent involvement in cashing the checks for Sunmola, she was arrested by local police, jailed and charged with theft by deception and forgery, the indictment alleges.

The indictment further alleges that another Illinois victim was induced to purchase a webcam and pose in a sexually suggestive position. She later learned that Sunmola was making a video recording. He threatened to post the sexually suggestive images on the Internet. According to the indictment, Sunmola told the woman that by the time he was done with her she would want to kill herself. He pledged to ruin her life if she did not continue to send him the money he demanded.

Sunmola was charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud, and extortion. If convicted of all offenses, he faces a maximum prison sentence of 127 years, a fine of $100,000 on each of the eight counts of the indictment, and five years of supervised release. A trial date will be set after extradition proceedings have been completed, which could take several months.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bruce Reppert and Nathan Stump, Southern District of Illinois, are prosecuting this case. The Illinois Attorney General's Office referred the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office for investigation as part of an ongoing partnership between the two offices to identify, investigate and prosecute international scammers who prey upon Illinois residents. This prosecution is also part of a larger initiative with the Chicago Office of the Federal Trade Commission to target romance scammers.

An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant that is comprised of the essential facts constituting the offense charged. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.

Updated: 09/23/2014