BOSTON – A Texas man and woman were indicted today by a federal grand jury for allegedly operating an unlicensed money transmitting business to launder the proceeds of online investment fraud and romance fraud schemes.
Charles Ochi, 27, of Grand Prairie, Texas, and Vanessa Okocha, 24, of Houston, Texas were indicted on one count each of money laundering conspiracy, one count of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business and one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. Ochi will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date. Okocha remains at large.
According to the charging documents, beginning in or around 2016, Ochi and Okocha conspired with others to launder and transmit proceeds of Ponzi-style investment fraud schemes based in Nigeria and of romance scams. Specifically, the investment fraud schemes allegedly purported to offer trading and Bitcoin investing services when, in fact, investor funds were stolen and victims’ investments were later used to pay purported returns to earlier investors. The romance fraud schemes deceived online victims into sending money to persons with whom they believed they had a romantic relationship. It is alleged that Ochi and Okocha laundered the fraud proceeds as part of aa network of co-conspirators in the United States, including the owners of at least two used car exporting companies. Ochi and Okocha, along with their co-conspirators, did not hold money transmitting licenses in their respective states of residence, nor were they registered as money transmitters as required by federal law.
The charge of money laundering conspiracy provides for 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 laundered funds, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to conduct an unlicensed money transmitting business and the charge of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business each provide for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and statutes which govern the determination of a sentence 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 the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Jennifer De La O, Director of Field Operations of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Boston Field Office made the announcement today. Valuable assistance was provided by the Division of Enforcement at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kriss Basil of Rollins’ Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.
The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.