Two Nigerian fintech founders, Anslem Oshionebo and Opeyemi Odelay of a US-based money transfer company have been sentenced to a total of 8 years in jail at the federal prison.
The company, Ping Express said in documents filed with a US district court that it violated laws against money laundering when it sent $167 million outside of the country.
For three years, $160 million of that money, of which some of the earnings are from online romance scams, were sent to Nigeria.
The company acknowledged operating without a license in at least five US states and failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering policy.
Anslem Oshionebo, 45, is the CEO of Ping Express, while Opeyemi Odelaye, 43, is the COO.
The two fintech founders recently received 27-month prison sentences for money laundering. While the company’s business manager, Aleoghena Okhumale, received a 42-month prison sentence for intentionally transferring criminal proceeds.
Who is Anslem Oshionebo?
Mr Oshionebo is a skilled finance professional with around 20 years of related experience. According to the information on his LinkedIn page, he received a Master’s in Accounting and Finance from the Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall University.
He was employed by PwC for 14 years, serving in a number of important positions, including Senior Associate, Manager, and Senior Manager.
He became a Principal at Dallas-based Riveron Consulting in 2015. He worked there for more than two years before launching the fintech firm, Ping Express US LLC in December 2014 to enable easy money transfers.
He explained that one of his duties at Ping Express was to supervise “the business and compliance sides of Ping Express, ensuring that the company is following all necessary legal requirements for the various countries it is available in”.
Who is Opeyemi Odelaye?
Mr Odeyale is an professional with experience in finance, law, and retail, much like his business partner. He worked as an Assistant Vice President at Barclays Bank, a prestigious British global banking organisation, before helping to co-found Ping Express.
He is currently the President of 8MG Healthcare, a cutting-edge digital healthcare platform that specialises in compiling pharmacy inventories, and this is according to information on his LinkedIn profile. He describes himself as “a financial professional and entrepreneur.”
Due to the tumultuous situation, Odeyale has been prompted to respond to the guilty verdict. Bloomberg received a copy of an email that he sent, and he was cited as saying,
“Having gone through a very painful three years of legal battle with a monstrous US Department of Justice, it was time to give in and move on…There is a lot of good I can do with the next two to three years than waste it in fighting an insurmountable foe.”
What is the company saying?
Global Marketing Communications Professional, the organisation managing the firm’s public relations, said in a statement from Ping Express that the company had been subjected to two and a half years of unfounded claims, including money laundering, in the US judicial system.
According to the statement, “It is deeply saddening that a technology that was designed to help immigrants stay connected to their families could have been grossly misused by a few of the platform’s over 80 thousand customers.”
“The company did not steal from anyone and did not know or conspired with anyone to steal a dollar from anyone. The court documents and rulings are clear.
No losses and no restitution were imposed on the company nor its founders, and this validates that the US court recognised that no fraud was perpetrated within the company’s platform nor was fraud aided or abetted by its founders,”
Incidents of money laundering on the platform
Collins Orogun, according to DoJ allegations, is one of Ping’s top clients and a co-defendant in the case, reportedly admitted to collecting payment for helping “romantic scam” con artists and other criminals launder money.
The DoJ claims that over the course of two years, he received more than $1.3 million in cash, cashier’s checks, and wire transfers into a number of US bank accounts under his control. He then swiftly transferred more than $1 million of the money to Africa through Ping.
In one instance, a woman from Indiana sent $15,000 via wire transfer to “Carson Jacks,” a purported oil roughneck in the Gulf of Mexico who she had met online and fallen in love with after he claimed to have malaria.
Another Indiana woman claimed to have found an Irish ship captain named “Thomas Ken” online and fallen in love, sending him $6,300 to repair his ship. Through Ping, Orogun made both payments possible.
Now, Orogun faces up to 20 years in federal prison on January 23, 2023. Up to five years of probation and a $500,000 punishment are possible for Ping Express.
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