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Taunton man sentenced in $1M online romance scams. Here’s how he did it.

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TAUNTON — A 30-year-old Taunton man has been sentenced to two years in prison and ordered to pay more than $1 million in restitution for his role in online romance scams, United States Attorney Rachael Rollins said.

Francis Okafor was sentenced Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in federal court in Boston by U.S. Senior District Judge Douglas P. Woodlock to two years in prison followed by two years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution of $1,130,285, Rollins said in a written statement.

In August 2022, Okafor pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud conspiracy for his role in the scams, which targeted people in the United States, Rollins said.

From approximately May 2018 through August 2021, Okafor and others participated in a series of romance scams designed to defraud victims, Rollins said. Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust.

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The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim. In furtherance of the scheme, Okafor used false foreign passports in the names of others but with his photo to open numerous bank accounts.

Leading the packMeet the 2022 Taunton Daily Gazette Girls Cross Country All-Scholastics

In turn, co-conspirators directed victims to send money to these accounts, Rollins said. Okafor and his co-conspirators then withdrew the victims’ money from various bank branches and ATMs and wired the money overseas. In total, more than $1.1 million in fraud proceeds was deposited into fraudulent bank accounts Okafor controlled.

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United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; and Ketty Larco-Ward, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, made the announcement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen A. Kearney of Rollins’ Securities, Financial and Cyber Fraud Unit prosecuted the case.

This article originally appeared on The Taunton Daily Gazette: Taunton: Francis Okofor sentenced to prison for online romance scams

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