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ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A Woodbridge man was sentenced today to 21 months in prison for engaging in financial transactions with illegal proceeds as part of a romance fraud scheme against mostly elderly victims. 

According to court documents, beginning in February 2016, Abdul Rasak Garuba, 41, received large wire transfers from a number of senior citizens living throughout the United States who were duped into believing that they were sending money at the request of and for the benefit of romantic partners they met through online dating sites. In fact, the victims had been directed to send money to Garuba by individuals in Nigeria who were operating a “romance fraud” scheme.

To receive the funds, Garuba opened a number of bank accounts at local bank branches in Virginia. A victim of the scheme called his bank to report that the money he wired to Garuba was induced through fraud. In the ensuing investigation, Garuba lied and told his bank that he was engaged in business with the victims, had purchased cars for them, and had the paperwork to prove it. Garuba’s bank closed his account for fraud when he failed to produce any records. However, he continued to perpetrate the fraud scheme by accepting shipments of cash and wire transfers from victims.

In total, Garuba transferred approximately 15% of the nearly $2.9 million that the fraudsters obtained from the victims. During this period, Garuba was aware that much of this money was obtained through fraudulent means and that he was furthering the fraud. Garuba used the illegal proceeds to purchase vehicles at auction in the United States and then shipped the vehicles to Nigeria for the benefit of the leaders of the “romance fraud” scheme. 

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis, III.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carina A. Cuellar and Kimberly Riley Pedersen prosecuted the case.

Combatting elder abuse and financial fraud targeted at seniors is a key priority of the Department of Justice. Elder abuse is an intentional or negligent act by any person that causes harm or a serious risk of harm to an older adult. It is a term used to describe five subtypes of elder abuse: physical abuse, financial fraud, scams and exploitation, caregiver neglect and abandonment, psychological abuse, and sexual abuse. Elder abuse is a serious crime against some of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens, affecting at least 10 percent of older Americans every year. Together with our federal, state, local and tribal partners, the Department of Justice is steadfastly committed to combatting all forms of elder abuse and financial exploitation through enforcement actions, training and resources, research, victim services, and public awareness. This holistic and robust response demonstrates the Department’s unwavering dedication to fighting for justice for older Americans.