MADISON, Wis. -- Scott C. Blader, United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, recognized Price County Investigator Chris Jarosinski and the Price County Sheriff’s Office for their efforts in a successful international cybercrime investigation and prosecution. The ceremony today took place at the Price County Courthouse in Phillips, Wisconsin. In addition to U.S. Attorney Blader, Price County Sheriff Brian Schmidt, and Investigator Jarosinski, the ceremony was attended by Phillips Police Chief Mike Hauschild, Park Falls Police Chief Scott Straetz, Price County District Attorney Mark Fuhr, Price County Administrator Nick Trimner, retired Price County Circuit Judge Douglas T. Fox, and Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Nathan Cravatta.
U.S. Attorney Blader presented Investigator Jarosinski and the Price County Sheriff’s Office with a plaque acknowledging their outstanding dedication and commitment in the investigation and prosecution of an international romance fraud scheme. Four individuals - three Nigerian nationals living in the United States and a Florida man - were prosecuted in federal court in Wisconsin.
The scheme operated from October 2013 to August 2015 and defrauded victims in the United States and Canada out of more than $12.9 million. Co-schemers targeted victims by creating fake profiles on internet dating services. Once they gained the victims’ trust, co-schemers got victims to pay so-called “inheritance taxes” on non-existent inheritances, and to send money in exchange for checks that turned out to be fraudulent. At the time of sentencing, the court found that the intended loss in the romance fraud scheme was $12.9 million, but noted that the amount was likely understated given the scope of the scheme and the number of victims.
The defendants included Richard Ugbah and Michael Adegoke, Nigeran nationals living in Atlanta and Chicago, respectively, who each were sentenced in November 2017 to 12 years in federal prison. Sally Iriri, a Nigerian national living in Chicago, was sentenced to 10 years in November 2015. The fourth defendant was Jon Whipple, St. Petersburg, Florida, who was sentenced to five years of probation for his role in the scheme, which was limited to uttering counterfeit checks. Whipple was initially a victim of a similar romance fraud scheme, but later participated in the scheme by disseminating counterfeit checks in exchange for small amounts of money.
Price County Investigator Chris Jarosinski began the investigation after receiving a complaint from a victim, who had lost more than $100,000. Through the combined efforts of the Price County Sheriff’s and District Attorney’s Offices, Investigator Jarosinski identified Sally Iriri as a possible suspect in the investigation. Through further investigation, Jarosinski also determined that the case involved numerous other likely victims throughout the United States and Canada. Jarosinski contacted Special Agent Nathan Cravatta of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations in Milwaukee for assistance. Ultimately, the joint investigation resulted in the successful federal prosecutions of the four individuals named above.
The prosecution of the case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Meredith P. Duchemin and Antonio Trillo.