A Nigerian national faces up to 10 years in prison after stealing nearly $400,000 from online daters he wooed as part of a years-long romance scam, according to federal prosecutors.
Augustine Amechi, 24, pleaded guilty to receiving stolen money — most of which he pocketed — from victims he met though online dating and social media sites, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia announced in a Nov. 29 news release. A jury indicted him in April.
Between early 2018 and March 2021, prosecutors said Amechi and several others swindled romantic hopefuls by convincing them to send him money for “a variety of false and fraudulent reasons.” He was living in Huntington at the time and attended Marshall University.
“Amechi admitted to receiving approximately $108,601.92 directly deposited into his bank accounts from victims, over $150,000 in cash mailed in packages to his Huntington residence and over $140,000 in deposits from (digital wallet app) Zelle,” the news release states.
He kept some of the stolen money for himself, prosecutors said, and wired the rest to others.
In all, prosecutors said Amechi defrauded at least 37 people with whom he built romantic or business relationships. Court documents show he used several aliases and, in one case, posed as a U.S. Army lieutenant stationed overseas.
“In furtherance of the scheme, (Amechi) also falsely and fraudulently told Victim D.A. that his platoon had discovered a gold mine and bought it from its previous owners,” prosecutors wrote in an indictment. “He then fraudulently induced Victim D.A. to send him money to both pay the mine workers ... and promised that he would share the gold with her when he returned to the United States.”
Amechi started a “virtual romance” with another victim under the guise of a U.S. Army general who “wanted to leave the Army, return to the U.S. and marry her,” the indictment read. She would have to wire money into his bank account first, however.
Amechi entered into a plea deal, prosecutors said, and agreed to pay $192,762.19 in restitution. His sentencing is scheduled for March 7, 2022.