Nigerian man jailed for romance scam, money laundering in US

A Nigerian man, Uchenna Nlemchi, has been sentenced to 51 months in prison for his role in a romance scam and business email compromise scheme.

He was also ordered to pay $524,000 in restitution and a money judgment of $868,295.

Nlemchi was extradited from Hungary to the United States of America last year.

There is no parole in the federal system.

U.S. Attorney Alexander M.M. Uballez and Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office, made the announcement in a statement shared on their website on Thursday.

According to court documents, the scheme began in 2015, with a co-conspirator posing as “Sean Bartlett” and convincing a widow in New Mexico to send money for supposed business expenses.

Nlemchi opened bank accounts in his name and the name of a non-existent business, “Jay Auto & Machine Parts,” and received over $375,000 from the victim.

Additionally, a German citizen was defrauded of over $200,000, which was wired to Nlemchi’s accounts. Nlemchi rapidly withdrew and transferred the funds, abandoning the accounts in February 2016.

The statement said in part, “On September 13, 2015, Uchenna Nlemchi opened a personal bank account at Amegy Bank in his own name. Sixteen days later, Nlemchi opened a fraudulent business bank account at the same bank in the name of the non-existent “Jay Auto & Machine Parts,” listing himself as the sole owner.

“Following the co-conspirator’s instructions over the next few months, the victim made several transfers into accounts controlled by Nlemchi totalling over $375,000 from her retirement savings and a home equity loan.

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“This included wiring $45,000 on October 7th to another person’s account, before sending $35,000 directly to the “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” account on October 9th, the same day the other person wired $44,000 into that account.

“On October 22nd, the victim transferred $125,346 from her and her late husband’s IRA accounts into Nlemchi’s “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” bank account. Then on December 7th, she took out a $170,000 home equity loan and immediately transferred the full amount to that account.

“Nlemchi rapidly withdrew and transferred globally over $868,000 that was deposited into the “Jay Auto & Machine Parts” account from the New Mexico victim and other fraud proceeds. Nlemchi abandoned the fraudulent accounts on February 29, 2016, as bank investigators closed in.

“At the time, Nlemchi was in the United States on a student visa and attended Texas Southern University. He was arrested in Houston, Texas in 2017 and released on electronic monitoring in the third-party custody of his wife and ordered to surrender his passport.”

The statement added that “Nlemchi escaped from his monitoring system and fled to Mexico, then to Brazil, then back to his home in Nigeria. Nlemchi was an international fugitive for more than five years until his arrest in Hungary in 2023.

Nlemchi pleaded guilty in federal court to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in February 2024.

After serving his sentence, Nlemchi will face deportation proceedings and 3 years of supervised release.

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