BOSTON — A Texas man and woman were indicted today by a federal grand jury for allegedly operating an unlicensed money transfer business to launder the proceeds of online investment fraud and romance fraud.
Charles Ochi, 27, of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Vanessa Okocha, 24, of Houston, Texas, were each charged with one count of conspiracy to launder money, one count of conspiracy to direct an unlicensed money transfer business and an unlicensed business operator. money transmission company. Ochi will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date. Okocha remains on the run.
According to the charging documents, beginning in or around 2016, Ochi and Okocha conspired with others to launder and pass on the proceeds of Nigeria-based Ponzi-type investment fraud schemes and romance scams. Specifically, the investment fraud schemes allegedly offered Bitcoin trading and investing services when, in fact, investors’ funds were stolen and victims’ investments were then used to pay alleged returns. to previous investors. Romance fraud schemes tricked online victims into sending money to people they thought they had a romantic relationship with. It is alleged that Ochi and Okocha laundered the proceeds of the fraud as part of a network of co-conspirators in the United States, including the owners of at least two used car export companies. Ochi and Okocha, and their co-conspirators, did not hold money transmission licenses in their respective states of residence, nor were they registered as money transmitters as required by law. federal.
The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the funds laundered, whichever is greater . The charge of conspiracy to run an unlicensed money transfer business and the charge of operating an unlicensed money transfer business each carry a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of $250,000 or double the gain or loss. , whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on US sentencing guidelines and the laws that govern sentencing in a criminal case.
United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division; Joleen D. Simpson, special agent in charge of criminal investigations for the Internal Revenue Service in Boston; and Jennifer De La O, Director of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Boston Field Office, made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Division of Enforcement of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kriss Basil of Rollins’ Securities, Finance, and Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.