In a verdict announced on Thursday, a 33-year-old woman from Aubrey, Texas, Ijeoma Okoro, was convicted after a seven-day trial for her involvement in defrauding elderly victims through romance schemes. The conviction, handed down by a jury following 10 hours of deliberation, includes one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton commended federal agents and prosecutors for their dedicated work in holding the defendants accountable for their actions. Okoro and her coconspirators were found guilty of stealing money from retirement accounts, pensions, and other sources through various romance scams.
Christopher J. Altemus Jr., the special agent in charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s Dallas Field Office, highlighted the severity of the crimes, stating that the perpetrators preyed on unsuspecting individuals, gaining their trust before emptying their bank accounts. The fraudsters, adopting fake identities, targeted victims on dating sites such as Match.com and Zoosk.
During the trial, evidence revealed that the fraudsters manipulated their victims, often divorced or widowed, with promises of long-term commitment. They then fabricated elaborate stories, claiming financial emergencies like overseas work trips or urgent medical needs for family members. Victims were coerced into sending money to cover these expenses, with assurances of repayment in the future. The fraudulent proceeds were distributed among the coconspirators, and Okoro claimed a share for herself.
Okoro now faces a potential sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud conspiracy and up to 10 years for money laundering conspiracy. Additionally, she may be ordered to repay the victims for the losses caused by her and her coconspirators. The investigation was led by the IRS – Criminal Investigation, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Frisco Field Office, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.