World News

US Court sentences Nigerian to 51-month jail term for love scam

Nigerian Uchenna Christian Nlemchi has been sentenced to a 51-month imprisonment alongside an order to pay a $524,000 fine in restitution for his involvement in a romance scam and business email compromise plot.
Nlemchi who was also ordered to pay a money judgment of $868,295 was extradited from Hungary to the United States of America in 2023.
U.S. Attorney and the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, Alexander M.M. Uballez and Raul Bujanda respectively, announced in a statement shared on their website on Thursday.
According to court documents, the scheme began in 2015, with a co-conspirator identifying as “Sean Bartlett”, convincing a widow in New Mexico to send money for supposed business expenses.
Nlemchi opened bank accounts in his name and the name of a non-existent business, “Jay Auto & Machine Parts,” and siphoned over $375,000 from the victim, including $200,000, which was defrauded from a German citizen and was traced to his accounts.
Nlemchi immediately withdrew and transferred the money, abandoning the accounts in February 2016.
“On September 13, 2015, Nlemchi opened a personal bank account at Amegy Bank in his own name. Sixteen days later, Nlemchi opened a fraudulent business bank account at the same bank in the name of the non-existent “Jay Auto & Machine Parts,” listing himself as the sole owner.
“Following the co-conspirator’s instructions over the next few months, the victim made several transfers into accounts controlled by Nlemchi totaling over $375,000 from her retirement savings and a home equity loan.
“This included wiring $45,000 on October 7th to another person’s account, before sending $35,000 directly to the “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” account on October 9th, the same day the other person wired $44,000 into that account.
“On October 22nd, the victim transferred $125,346 from her and her late husband’s IRA accounts into Nlemchi’s “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” bank account. Then on December 7th, she took out a $170,000 home equity loan and immediately transferred the full amount to that account.
“Nlemchi rapidly withdrew and transferred globally over $868,000 that was deposited into the “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” account from the New Mexico victim and other fraud proceeds. Nlemchi abandoned the fraudulent accounts on February 29, 2016, as bank investigators closed in.
“At the time, Nlemchi was in the United States on a student visa and attended Texas Southern University.
He was arrested in Houston, Texas in 2017 and released on electronic monitoring in the third-party custody of his wife and ordered to surrender his passport,” the statement said in parts.
The statement also explained that Nlemchi escaped from his monitoring system and fled to Mexico, then to Brazil, then back to his home in Nigeria, becoming an international fugitive for more than five years until he was arrested in Hungary in 2023.
Nlemchi who pleaded guilty in federal court to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in February 2024, will face deportation proceedings and 3 years of supervised release after serving his sentence.

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