Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Deputy U.S. marshal accused in romance scams that bilked $2M from seniors

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Someone who claimed to be a major general in the U.S. Army said they were in need of money to transition out of the military. Another person who claimed to be a lieutenant commander in the U.S. military abroad asked for help to pay for a shipment of gold and cash seized in a raid. And one individual who claimed to be in the U.S. Army stationed in Syria messaged one person they met on Facebook saying they needed money to retire early and return “home to his three children.”

All claimed to be in relationships with the women messaged online and all were elaborate scams, according to court documents made public Wednesday revealing the alleged ruses.

Prosecutors allege that a special deputy U.S. Marshal from Maryland was part of a network that defrauded seniors out of almost $2 million in “romance scams” over several years.

Isidore Iwuagwu, 35, of Upper Marlboro, has been charged with conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for Maryland.

Between October 2015 and July 2021, Iwuagwu was a part of romance scams where individuals engaged in online relationships with more than 20 victims via social media platforms and dating websites and swindled them out of large sums of money, prosecutors alleged. Victims reported a combined loss of $1.9 million, according to an affidavit, and at least $585,180 was connected to accounts belonging to Iwuagwu.

In many cases, the victims reported being defrauded by individuals claiming to be deployed U.S. Armed Forces members who needed money for personal hardships, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors allege the money would then be wired to accounts controlled by Iwuagwu or mailed to him as money orders, personal checks, cashier’s checks or cash. In one case, an individual claimed to be a major general who needed money for help transitioning out of the military and told the victim that Iwuagwu was his attorney. The victim sent more than $300,000 to Iwuagwu, according to the affidavit.

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