Ninth defendant sentenced in case against organized fraud, money laundering schemes


Date: February 9, 2023


A dual Nigerian and Canadian citizen was sentenced today in federal court in Austin to 87 months' imprisonment, ordered to pay more than $1.67 million in restitution, and forfeited a $2 million money judgment for his role in a conspiracy to commit fraud.

According to court documents, Ejiro Efevwerha aka Festus Akpobonme facilitated laundering the proceeds of fraud by connecting launderers in the U.S. to fraudsters located overseas. The conspiracy used a network of individuals in the U.S. to receive victim money in U.S. bank accounts, often opened under fraudulent names, and transferred those funds to co-conspirators inside and outside of the U.S.

The types of fraud used against the victims over more than three years included grandchildren-in-jail scams, romance scams, inheritance scams, lottery scams and investment scams, among others. Investigators identified a total victim loss of more than $3.9 million in fraud proceeds from hundreds of victims laundered by the conspiracy. Efevwerha was extradited from Canada to the Western District of Texas in July 2021. He pleaded guilty on Oct. 19, 2022.

"This case is another example of our dedication to bring fraudsters to justice, whether they are inside the United States or attempting to hide overseas," said U.S. Attorney Jaime Esparza of the Western District of Texas. "The scams perpetrated and facilitated by this conspiracy prey on our most vulnerable citizens. I commend the work of our law enforcement partners who help hold accountable both those who commit fraud and those that help fraudsters hide their profits."

"Efevwerha provided a pivotal role in facilitating the movement of victim funds from the U.S. to other countries. The scheme targeted innocent people, many elderly, for millions of dollars. These are kind hearted people, but now they will never forget how their kindness was taken advantage of," said Special Agent in Charge Ramsey E. Covington of IRS Criminal Investigation's (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office. "We can't heal the damage he and the other criminals did to the victims and their families, but we helped bring justice, and hopefully some peace of mind. This is what our special agents and the prosecutors they partner with do, and I hope it sends a message to anyone thinking about committing fraud in the future."

"This judgment shows HSI's success in protecting our nation's seniors and communities from fraud by malicious actors overseas," said Acting Special Agent in Charge Craig Larrabee of the Homeland Security Investigations San Antonio Division. "Fraudulent schemes of any kind are disgraceful, especially when they target vulnerable populations. HSI will continue to work with our international partners and other law enforcement agencies to put an end to these transnational criminal organizations."

Co-defendant Ochuko Sylvester Eruotor pleaded guilty after being extradited to the Western District of Texas from Germany and was sentenced in July 2018 to 168 months in federal prison for his role in the multi-million-dollar fraud and money laundering schemes. The other seven co-defendants sentenced received a combined 446 months in prison and were ordered to pay restitution.

Law enforcement is continuing its search for a co-conspirator who remains a fugitive of this case. If you know the whereabouts of Ejovwoke Mark Egorho, please contact the HSI Tip Line at 866-347-2423.

IRS-CI and HSI investigated the case with the help of the United States Postal Inspection Service, Toronto Police Service and Justice Department's Office of International Affairs.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Galdo prosecuted the case.