A 35-year-old Edison man was charged with allegedly laundering at least $2.1 million obtained from a variety of internet-based scams, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
Kenny Osas Okuonghae is charged by complaint with one count of money laundering conspiracy. He was scheduled to have his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge James B. Clark III in Newark federal court on Oct. 11, according to a press release through the U.S. Attorney District of New Jersey.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2019 through the present, Okuonghae allegedly laundered money that was obtained from a variety of internet-related scams, including property rental scams, romance scams, and a “pig butchering” scam involving a purported cryptocurrency investment platform called “Alphacoin.” “Pig butchering” refers to an internet scheme where a romance scam victim develops what the victim perceives to be a romantic relationship online with the perpetrator. The perpetrator emotionally “fattens” the victim up before enticing the victim to invest in a fake cryptocurrency scheme and then, metaphorically, “slaughters” the victim by taking the victim’s real money that he or she placed in the fake cryptocurrency investment scheme, according to the press release.
Okuonghae opened several bank accounts across at least seven banks and permitted fraudulent proceeds to be deposited into these accounts. One of the scams from which Okuonghae received illegal proceeds was the Alphacoin scam. Another scam involved a deposit for rental property that was not actually available to rent. Okuonghae told at least one bank that the money was coming from a legitimate customer who wished to buy car parts from Okuonghae. He also circulated at least one false invoice made out to a victim for the purported purchase of a Mack truck. Okuonghae laundered at least $2.1 million through his accounts, according to the press release.
The money laundering conspiracy charged in the complaint carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the transfer, whichever is greater, according to the press release.
Sellinger credited special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges against Okuonghae.