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United States v. Ayelotan

Case Number: 17-60397

Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Plaintiff: United States of America

Defendants: Oladimeji Ayelotan, Femi Mewase, and Rasaq Raheem

Case Filed: 03/04/2019

Type of Scam: money mule, romance scam

Amount: more than $25 million (intended loss)/ $52 million (according to the PSR’s calculations). At least 37,817 credit cards involved in the conspiracy.

Case Summary:

Oladimeji Ayelotan, Femi Mewase, and Rasaq Raheem were charged with a sprawling international romance scam that stole both hearts and money from many American victims. They posed themselves as bachelors and bachelorette, sitting at overseas computers, making fake promises of love and romance that ultimately guided unsuspecting victims into sending money to Nigeria and South Africa. They first stole personal information such as names, social security numbers, credit card and bank account numbers and impersonated a group of victims to get money from bank accounts. In order to transfer this money, they then scammed another group of victims. On dating websites, with scripts and step-by-step guides, after forming fake romantic relationships, they sweet talked victims into laundering their money (money mule).

Reason Filed:

A wary target reported her suspicions to the police leading to investigation by the Homeland Security Investigations (the Department of Homeland Security’s investigation arm).

Debates and Laws Cited:

a) Ayelotan and Raheem—the shackling of their legs during trial

b) Raheem and Mewase—the admission of various emails and Mewase’s nonoriginal passport

c) Ayelotan and Mewase—the dismissal of a juror

d) Leadership Enhancement and Eighth Amendment argument

a. Ayelotan and Raheem argued that the shackling of their legs during trial violated their due process rights. The district court’s response to this is that under the Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments, courts may shackle defendants when there’s a danger of harm or escape. The court had evidence of this. For example, at Ayelotan’s extradition hearing, he and other defendants caused such a ruckus that SWAT had to be called in. In addition, the defendants restraints weren’t visible. Therefore, the district court did not violate the defendant’s due process rights.

b. At trial, the government found large amounts of emails that the defendants sent out to their romantic targets revealing the defendants’ fraudulent activities and instructions for money mules. On appeal, Raheem and Mewase challenge the admission of these emails and records under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Confrontation Clause. Mewase also contends that admission of a duplicate copy of his passport identification page violated the Best Evidence Rule. Both challenges failed. The court held that Yohoo! and Google with records-custodian certificates, are admissible self-authenticating business records (Rule 803(6)(A)–(C) and Rule 801(d)).

c. Ayelotan and Mewase contended the court’s decision in removing Juror 20 violated their due process rights. The district court’s response to this is that the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure allows judges to remove jurors that are unable to perform their duties. The juror slept through witness testimony; misrepresented this fact to the district court when asked; didn’t understand, or else didn’t follow, the jury instructions; and didn’t deliberate. This was testified by other jurors.

d. Ayelotan and Raheem objected to their leadership enhancements, and instead they should’ve been given a minor-role reduction. The district court specifically relied on several § 3B1.1 factors in determining leadership roles. At sentencing, the court heard testimony from case agent Williams. Agent Williams testified that Ayelotan and Raheem “was involved in almost every scam involved in the offense”; that the two “participated in planning or organizing it”; and that they directly controlled other conspirators. Ayelotan and Raheem also raised the Eighth Amendment argument. They asserted that life sentences for nonviolent crimes under the amendment is cruel and unusual punishment. However, there is no error. Ayelotan and Raheem’s within-Guidelines sentences do not violate the Eighth Amendment.

Court Results:
  • Ayelotan - The court imposed a 22-level increase for the intended loss. And it imposed a 4-level enhancement for his leadership role. This came to a total Guidelines offense level of 43. Given Ayelotan’s criminal history, his Guidelines sentence was life imprisonment. The court reduced that to the within-Guidelines statutory maximum of 95 years.

  • Raheem-The court applied an offense level of 43 for the intended loss and his leadership role. His initial sentencing range was life imprisonment. But the court decreased it. His within-Guidelines statutory maximum was 115 years

  • Mewase- The court applied an 22-level increase for the intended loss. The resulting Guidelines range was 262 to 327 months. The court reduced that to 262 to 300, the statutory maximum. The court then sentenced him to 25 years of imprisonment.

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