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Man gets more than seven years in prison for role in romance scam

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CBS News Chicago Live

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A Chicago man was sentenced this week to more than seven years in prison for his role in an international romance scam.

Federal investigators said Olaniyi Nasiru Ojikutu, 39, was one of 10 people indicted as a result of Operation Gold Phish – a Chicago-based probe that identified an assortment of scams targeting elderly victims.

Prosecutors said Ojikutu helped lead a multi-year fraud scheme carried out by scammers in the U.S. and Nigeria. The schemers targeted elderly victims through fake online romances, and persuaded the victims to send money after building trust.

The scammers used Facebook, Instagram, and dating sites such as to contact the victims, prosecutors said.

Over a period of about three years, Ojikutu opened about 25 bank accounts in his own name, a fake name, and a shell company through which he transferred about $3.4 million in fraudulently-obtained money, prosecutors said.

The victims lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to Ojikutu's actions, prosecutors said.

When Ojikutu first found out about charges against him in May 2019, he got on a bus and went to Canada, prosecutors said. But he was apprehended several months later and was turned over to U.S. authorities in January 2020, prosecutors said.

Ojikutu pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in July of last year.

On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Robert Blakey imposed a sentence of 88 months in federal prison on Ojikutu.

There were nine defendants charged in Operation Gold Phish – all but one of whom have pleaded guilty. The alleged leader – Daniel Samuel Eta, 35, of Skokie – has pleaded not guilty and still has a case pending.

The FBI estimates about 24,000 people lost more than $956 million in romance scams just in 2021.

The Federal Trade Commission has a romance scam web page with information on how to protect yourself and others.

Suspected romance fraud should be reported to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at

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