More than seven years in prison and then likely deportation is the fate of a Nigerian citizen who with his wife admitted laundering nearly $1.9 million obtained by making false pleas for money on social media.
Jabin Godspower Okpako, 36, of Sayre, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. Middle District Judge Matthew W. Brann to 7 years, 3 months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release.
Deportation proceedings likely will prevent him from serving his supervised release, court officials said.
Earlier this year Okpako and his wife, Christin Bradley Okpako, 54, of Sayre, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering through mail and wire fraud.
Her sentencing that was scheduled Tuesday was continued because his attorney had a conflict in another venue.
The Okpakos preyed on women throughout the country ages 55 to 85 who visited on-line game, relationship and dating websites.
They cultivated online relationships through texts, instant messaging and the exchange of pictures and then induced them to send or transmit money for fictitious reasons including personal crisis.
The Bradford County couple received and deposited $1,898,046 between January 2016 and June 2019 and then wire transferred the funds to Ube Peace, a woman in Nigeria.
It is disturbing the mastermind of the scheme in Nigeria likely will never be prosecuted, said defense attorney Kyle W. Rude, who described his client as a “money mule.”
It is also unlikely any of those who lost money will be made whole, he said.
Okpako, who was a civil engineer in Nigeria before coming to the United States, claimed he was deceived by his long-time boss in Nigeria into participating in the conspiracy.
“I never once even considered or thought that I was a committing a crime or the consequences my actions would have,” he told Brann.
He attributed that to a lack of understanding along “with my own greed and ambition to rise above the hardships of my childhood.” He wanted to be the one to bring his family out of poverty, he said.
Noting “the land of opportunity has closed its doors on me,” Okpako said he has no one to blame but himself.
Assistant U.S. Attorney George J. Rocktashel called Okpako a “regular player” in the scheme.
He knew where the money was going as he and his wife went to multiple banks sometimes more than once on the same day, he said.
The government has identified 19 victims who in total lost $440,950, the prosecutor said.
One woman lost $50,000, he said. Other individual losses his listed included $41,900, $41,000, $35,000, $35,000 and $23,000.
Brann, who found Okpako had an instrumental role in the scheme, ordered restitution of the $440,950 payment of which is to be shared with his wife after she is sentenced.
Okpako also must forfeit $28,820 in U.S. currency seized during a May 2, 2019, search of his home.