A St. Petersburg man and two Nigerian citizens have been sentenced in a cyber-romance scheme that bilked victims out of $14 million, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said.
Richard Ugbah, 36, who lives in Atlanta, and Michael Adegoke, 35, who lives in Chicago, each received 12 years in prison.
ICE officials said Jon Whipple, 60, of St. Petersburg, was initially a victim of a similar scheme, then participated in this scheme by disseminating counterfeit checks. He received five years of probation.
The three were sentenced in Madison, Wis.
According to officials, the men targeted victims in the U.S. and Canada by creating fake profiles on internet dating services. Once they gained the victims’ trust, the co-schemers got victims to pay so-called “inheritance taxes” on non-existent inheritances, and to send money in exchange for checks that turned out to be fraudulent.
The defendants were ordered to pay restitution, but officials said it is unlikely any money will be recovered because it was spent on luxury goods or sent overseas.