UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — A special deputy U.S. marshal from Upper Marlboro is facing federal charges for a romance scam involving more than 20 victims and over $1 million.
Isidore Iwaugwa, 35, has been accused of taking on multiple personas to conspire to commit money laundering. He is accused of contacting multiple people through social media and dating sites, engaging in online relationships, and then convincing the victims to send large sums of money. According to a filed complaint, the incidents happened between Oct. 2015 and July 2021 to mostly senior citizens.
In one incident, a victim claimed that Iwaugwa stated he was a major general in the U.S. Army and needed help with financial expenses as he transitioned out of the military. The victim, who believed he was returning to the U.S. for her, sent him $300,000.
Another victim stated that he contacted them claiming to be a Spanish doctor living in California who was leaving on a ship to provide medical treatment to people in other countries. Iwaugwa allegedly told the victim he did not have access to his bank account and asked her for $1,120. The victim sent him the money requested and over time sent him an estimated total of $51,880. When the victim began to doubt him, he sent her a photo of his Department of Justice contractor credentials to ease concerns.
According to a criminal complaint, Iwaugwu had 30 bank accounts where he received around $1.65 million in wire transfers from 119 individuals and about $1.138 million in other deposits, including money orders and personal checks. He allegedly wired more than $1.5 million from his accounts, including $200,000 to a Nigerian company, and withdrew an estimated $511,900.
Iwaugwu is facing the federal charge of conspiring to commit money laundering related to numerous online romance scams, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. If convicted, he will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison.
He had his initial appearance in district court in Greenbelt Wednesday afternoon.
“If you find yourself in an online relationship and you’re asked for a bunch of money, it’s probably fraud not love,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron said. “We’re prosecuting elder fraud, including romance scams, to the fullest extent of the law.”
The Department of Justice runs the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-372-8311, or here, for elders who have been financially exploited to report their incident, and be connected with additional resources and information. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP.