Nigerian men sentenced for laundering money through Austin banks

Three men who admitted to using Austin banks to launder money will spend at least 8 years in prison.  They were each ordered to pay more than a million in restitution.

Nathaniel Itimi, a 46-year-old native of Nigeria and current U.S. citizen residing in Houston, will spend 97 months in federal prison.  U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks ordered Itimi to pay $1,672,805.51 restitution.

Lewis Akpomofune, a 41-year-old citizen of Nigeria residing in Houston, will spend 108 months in prison.  He will pay $1,672,805.51 restitution.

Michael Omoh Okiki, a 37-year-old citizen of Nigeria residing in Houston, will spend 57 months in prison and pay $1,213,354.94 restitution.

Prosecutors said they, along with four others sentenced last year, would call victims pretending to operate a sweepstakes.

They also ran an inheritance scam and a “get out of jail” scam, according to the federal indictment.

Homeland Security Investigators proved the seven opened up several bank accounts in Austin using fake passports.

The money from the scam was then sent to Canada, according to the indictment.

Last year, four others were sentenced in connection with this investigation.  Three of them lived in Austin.

Ayibatonye Bienzigha, a 23-year-old citizen of Nigeria residing in New Jersey, received 37 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $51,307 restitution.

Eghosa Obaretin, a 30-year-old citizen of Nigeria living in Austin, received 40 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay $677,303.83 restitution and forfeit $222,000.

Roland Imoe, a 37-year-old native of Nigeria and current U.S. citizen residing in Austin, ten months in federal prison and ordered to pay $25,632 restitution.

Augustine Ikolo, a 41-year-old citizen of Nigeria residing in Austin, received 97 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $842,970 restitution.

“Today’s actions will not only bring a sense of justice to the victims in this case, but this significant investigation will also help increase awareness of this type of fraud,” said Shane Folden, Special Agent in Charge, HSI San Antonio in a press release to KVUE. “To potential victims, we encourage you to be vigilant and if you feel like you are being scammed, please contact law enforcement to report the suspected scam before you make a payment. There are criminals who are always seeking to exploit the vulnerable in our communities for their own personal gain.”

“The defendants who perpetrated this scheme systematically defrauded innocent American citizens,” stated Andy Tsui, IRS Criminal Investigation, Acting Special Agent in Charge, San Antonio Field Office in the press release. “Protecting taxpayer money is a matter we take very seriously. IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to vigorously pursue those who unjustly enrich themselves by creating elaborate money laundering schemes such as this one.”

Agents with HSI, IRS-CI, and U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated this case.