Olugbenga Lawal, also known as Razak Aolugbengela, has been sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison for conspiring to launder millions stolen from elderly victims in internet fraud schemes. The case involves elder fraud, a form of financial exploitation targeting adults aged 60 or older, where perpetrators misuse or steal financial assets, savings, income, or personal identification data without explicit consent. Lawal worked with the Nigerian Black Axe organized crime group, specializing in deceiving elderly victims, often under the impression of developing romantic relationships online. The fraud schemes included business email compromise and romance scams, resulting in the laundering of millions of dollars between January 2019 and June 2020.
The FBI reported a significant increase in elder fraud complaints, with 88,262 filed in 2022 alone, totaling approximately $3.1 billion in losses. The surge represented an 84% increase compared to the figures reported in 2021, with victims experiencing average losses exceeding $35,000. Lawal, a member of the dangerous Black Axe crime syndicate, targeted vulnerable elderly individuals who believed they had developed romantic connections online. The victims were deceived into transferring substantial sums of money, leading to devastating financial losses, and Lawal played a pivotal role in laundering the illicit proceeds.
Lawal’s involvement with the Black Axe crime group included laundering at least $3.6 million across various bank accounts, controlled either in his name or under his business entity, Luxe Logistics LLC. He facilitated the repatriation of funds to West Africa by converting the fraudulently obtained proceeds into Nigerian currency. Lawal, identified as a higher-ranking member of the criminal organization, received a share of the fraud proceeds, contributing to his role in money laundering activities. In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered Lawal to pay over $1.46 million in restitution.
The case highlights the global reach and impact of cybercriminal networks engaging in financial fraud schemes, particularly targeting vulnerable populations such as elderly individuals. The successful prosecution of Lawal reflects law enforcement efforts to combat cybercrime and hold individuals accountable for their involvement in large-scale fraud operations.