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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Nigerian executives of US fintech firm jailed over $160 million sent to Nigeria

Ping Express, a Texas-based remittance company with ties to the United Kingdom (UK), has pleaded guilty in the United States (US) to money laundering after sending over $160 million to Nigeria in suspicious transactions over a period of three years.

According to a statement by the US Department of Justice (DOJ), the fintech company admitted it failed to seek sufficient details about the sources or purposes of the funds involved in the transactions or the customers initiating the transmissions.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ping Express, Anslem Oshionebo, and the firm’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), Opeyemi Odeyale, were both handed a 27-month prison sentence for their involvement, according to US legal filings.

The firm’s IT/Business Development Manager received a prison sentence of 42 months.

According to the DOJ statement, three individuals – including two of Ping Express’s top customers – previously pleaded guilty to transmitting illegally-derived funds through the company.

“Collins Orogun admitted last week that he accepted a fee in exchange for transferring money for ‘romance scam’ fraudsters and other criminals.

“In one instance, an Indiana woman sent $15,000 to ‘Carson Jacks’, a purported oil roughneck in the Gulf of Mexico she fell in love with online, after he told her he’d contracted malaria. In another, a second Indiana woman sent $6,300 to ‘Thomas Ken,” a purported Irish ship captain she fell in love with online, to fix his ship.

“In two years, Orogun received more than $1.3 million in cash, cashier’s checks, and wires into several US bank accounts he controlled and then quickly moved more than $1 million of the funds to Africa through Ping Express.

“He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and is set to be sentenced on Jan. 23, 2023,” the statement said.

Ping Express was licensed to transmit money but was not licensed to conduct currency exchange and charged US customers a fee to remit money to beneficiaries in Nigeria and other African nations.

Ping Express now faces five years of probation and a fine of up to $500,000.

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