US Attorney: 2 Nigerian nationals used romance, unemployment insurance scams to defraud victims during pandemic

BOSTON (WHDH) - Two Nigerian nationals were arrested Friday after investigators say they used a series of romance, pandemic unemployment insurance, and other online scams to defraud victims during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nosayamen Iyalekhue, 33, and Esogie Osawaru, 27, were charged by criminal complaint with one count of wire fraud, United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling announced Monday. They were detained following an initial appearance in federal court in Boston.

Iyalekhue and Osawaru participated in a series of romance, pandemic unemployment insurance, and other scams designed to defraud victims by convincing them to send money to accounts they controlled, a criminal complaint indicated.

The men allegedly used false foreign passports in the names of others to open numerous bank accounts and in turn directed the victims to send money to these accounts. Investigators say they then rapidly withdrew the victims’ money from various bank branches and ATMs, often multiple times during a single day.

It’s also alleged that the schemes included collecting unemployment insurance in the name of others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Both men face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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