Nigerian Man Charged With Bilking $6 Million Out Of Americans In 'Lonely Hearts' Scam
MAPLE SHADE, NJ - On Tuesday, Martins Friday Inalegwu, 31, was arrested and charged one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His wife, Steincy Mathieu, 24, was also charged in the online dating scheme which reportedly netted the pair, along with their co-conspirators in Nigeria and Turkey more than $ 6 million.
The Nigerian national met his vitcims on several online dating sites, including Plenty of Fish, Match.com and eHarmony. After weeks of chatting with and pledging his “love” to the desperate marks (both men and women), he would then ask them to wire or mail money to him for expenses such as surgeries, travel or overdue taxes, according to court documents. The victims would often go to great lengths to fulfill the fraudulent expenses.
One of these desperate victims even became a convicted felon, for her online “lover.”
A criminal complaint from the U.S. Justice Department states:
“In or about March 2017, after exhausting her savings, liquidating her retirement account, borrowing from friends and family, taking out a personal loan, and maxing out her credit cards, VICTIM 1, employed as the finance director, began embezzling money from her employer...From May 2017 to September 2018, the targets (bank accounts of ficticious vendors) received by mail approximately $4 million from VICTIM 2, at VICTIM 1's direction.”
“VICTIM 1,” has since pleaded guilty to several counts of embezzlement.
She believed she was sending the money to a man named “George Marek,” a widower from Kentucky, who bought and sold gems for a living, according to the complaint.
Thus far, 33 victims have identified by federal authorities.
Both Inalegwu and Mathieu face up to 20 years in prison, if convicted.
Inalegwu entered this country on January 10, 2015, on a B-2 Vistitor's Visa. He remains in custody, without bond, due to his immigration status, while his wife remains on the run at this time.