A U.S. Marshal from Upper Marlboro is facing federal charges of money laundering related to numerous online romance scams where victims reported losing a combined $1.9 million.
A federal criminal complaint has been filed against Isidore Iwuagwu, 35.
"If you find yourself in an online relationship and you’re asked for a bunch of money, it’s probably fraud not love," said U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron. "We’re prosecuting elder fraud, including romance scams, to the fullest extent of the law."
According to court documents, Iwuagwu is a Special Deputy United States Marshal and Department of Justice contractor providing security for critical Department of Justice facilities.
Between October 2015 and July 2021, Iwuagwu participated in a romance scam in which individuals contacted victims on social media platforms and dating sites, engaged in online relationships with the victims, then convinced victims to send large sums of money, according to court documents.
The individuals claimed the funds were needed for personal hardships or shipping costs for various imports. Many victims reported sending funds at the request of individuals claiming to be deployed members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
The alleged scam involved more than 20 victims, many of whom are senior citizens. The victims linked to Iwuagwu reported losing a combined $1.9 million to the scheme.
One victim sent more than $300,000 to Iwuagwu after believing him to be the attorney for a Major General in the U.S. Army who needed money to return to the U.S. to be with her.
Another victim sent $51,880 to Iwuagwu under the impression that they were helping a Spanish doctor provide medical treatment in other countries. When the victim began to express doubts about the funds she was sending, the individual sent the victim a photograph of Iwuagwu’s Department of Justice contractor credentials to ease her concerns.
Law enforcement reviewed 30 accounts controlled by Iwuagwu between 2013 and 2021. During this time, Iwuagwu allegedly received approximately $1.65 million in wire transfers from 119 individuals and approximately $1.138 million in other deposits, including money orders, personal checks, cashier’s checks and cash.
Specifically, Iwuagwu is alleged to have wired more than $1.5 million from his accounts, including $200,000 to a Nigerian company, and withdrew approximately $511,900 through ATM and other cash withdrawals.
If convicted, Iwuagwu faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The Department of Justice runs the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311) for elders who have been financially exploited to report their incident, and be connected with additional resources and information. Victims are encouraged to file a complaint online with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at this website or by calling 1-800-225-5324. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at 877-FTC-HELP.