Three ringleaders in an international financial-fraud network received maximum prison sentences for schemes that began unraveling after a Biloxi woman’s tip to Homeland Security Investigations.
U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden on Wednesday sentenced Rasaq Aderoju Raheem, 31, to 115 years in prison. Ozerden gave Oladimeji Seun Ayelotan, 30, a 95- year prison term and sentenced Femi Alexander Mewase, 45, to 25 years. The three had been extradited from South Africa to face charges with 18 other defendants prosecuted in the Southern District of Mississippi.
They were convicted on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, credit card fraud and theft of government property in a three-week trial that ended Feb. 7. Raheem and Ayelotan were also found guilty of conspiracies to commit bank fraud and money laundering.
Ozerden ordered the three men, along with co-defendants, to pay back more than $2 million in restitution. The United States Postal Service had a $300,000 loss in the schemes, court records show. American Express lost more than $1.6 million and AT&T had a loss of $141,937.
HSI in Gulfport began investigating after a Biloxi woman reported being scammed in October 2011. A man she’d met on a dating website had had a package shipped to her home. She received a $3,000 check — that bounced — to re-ship the package to Pretoria, South Africa.
Packages she and others received in romance and work-at-home scams contained telephones and other equipment bought with stolen financial information. The electronic devices were then sold for a profit.
The U.S. Justice Department has compiled a list of fake email addresses and assumed names used in the schemes. If you believe you were one of their victims, go to www.justice.gov/usao-sdms/scams to complete a questionnaire.