A Nigerian man is facing federal charges in the U.S for preying on and targeting hundreds of them including residents of the St. Louis area, using fake dating profiles in order to extort money from them.
Olayinka Ilumsa Sunmola, 32, on Wednesday, March 2, pleaded guilty to eight counts of a federal indictment and admitted that he was the ringleader of a group that successfully wooed hundreds of women online, then convinced them to send cash to bail him out of phony emergencies..
Sunmola seduced women online by creating fake online profiles using photos and names of real American men, including claiming to a former U.S. soldier. He sent flowers, candies, stuffed animals and more to his victims, conning them into believing that each was his true love. Once the women were convinced of his love for them, he would request money from them claiming phony emergencies. Some of the women sent thousands of dollars.
The victims were not named but lived around the country, including in Mascoutah and Bond County in Illinois and St. Charles and St. Louis counties in Missouri.
In one case, Sunmola tricked one woman into cashing counterfeit or stolen traveler’s checks. She contemplated suicide when arrested. He lured another into performing sexual acts, which he recorded via webcam, they said. He then threatened to ruin her life by publishing the recordings online if she didn't send him cash, warning that by the time he was done with her she would want to kill herself.
A Bond County woman bought electronics and shipped them to Sunmola, reshipped items he’d bought using stolen credit card information and took out cash advances on a credit card, forcing herself into bankruptcy with debts of at least $98,000, the indictment claims.
The investigation included the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, as well as South African officials, who investigated Sunmola's activities there and started forfeiture proceedings for his assets there.
Sunmola was indicted in U.S. District Court in East St. Louis in 2013 on mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, and interstate extortion charges. He was arrested in August 2014 by Scotland Yard as he was about to board a flight from London to South Africa, then extradited here to face the charges.
"Basically, the evidence established that Sunmola, a citizen of the federal Republic of Nigeria, was a ringleader of a criminal organization operating withing South Africa that targeted and stole from hundreds of women across the United States," Acting United States Attorney James Porter stated.
"Our office will continue to pursue justice for these victims in Sunmola's prison sentence and in our never-ending efforts to get restitution." Porter added.