A federal jury in Gulfport on Wednesday convicted three Nigerian nationals of multiple fraud crimes that could put two of them behind bars for the rest of their lives. The three had been extradited from South Africa in July 2015 to face charges along with 18 others indicted.
Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, faces up to 115 years in prison.
Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, faces up to 95 years in prison.
Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, faces up to 25 years in prison.
A report by a Biloxi woman in Gulfport turned into a complex global investigation of internet-based financial fraud schemes, that include romance scams, re-shipping scams, fraudulent check scams, and work-at-home scams.
The fraudsters would first identify potential victims through online dating sites and work-at-home opportunities. In some cases, they would carry out fictitious online romantic relationships to further the scheme. In some cases, victims were convinced to ship and receive merchandise purchased with stolen credit or banking information, to deposit counterfeit checks, withdraw money from fraudulent prepaid cards, and to transfer proceeds via wire, mail, or express delivery.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden will sentence them May 24.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service joined HSI in its investigation as help unfolded from numerous agencies including Interpol and the South Africa Police Service.
Eleven defendants have pleaded guilty in the case. Seven are from Nigeria. Others are from South Africa, New York, Wisconsin and California. Some, including a Los Angeles woman, have already been sentenced. A second California woman awaits trial. One defendent, Sesan Olumide Farin, died at the Pearl River County jail before his trial. Officials said he died of natural causes.