Nigerian executives of US fintech company Ping Express plead guilty to money laundering after sending $160 million to Nigeria

The executives of an American fintech company, Ping Express, have been found guilty of violating money laundering rules after sending $167 million unchecked to Africa in less than 3 years. Of this total amount suspected of being laundered, $160 million was sent to Nigeria.

According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, the company admitted it had not obtained sufficient details about the sources or purposes of the funds involved in the transactions, or the customers initiating the transfers. Some of the money sent to Nigeria would also be the proceeds of internet fraud.

The DOJ announced that Ping CEO Anslem Oshionebo and his COO, Opeyemi Odeyale, have pleaded guilty to failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Ping’s IT/Business Development Manager, Aleoghena Okhumale, is also said to have pleaded guilty to knowingly transferring illegally obtained money.

The CEO and COO were recently each sentenced to 27 months in prison, while the IT/Business Development Manager was sentenced to 42 months in prison.

Criminal offenses committed by the company

According to court documents, the company – which was licensed to transfer money but not licensed to exchange currency – charged US customers a fee to transfer money to beneficiaries in Nigeria and other African countries. By law, Ping was required to report suspicious transactions to regulators. In pleadings, it admitted that it had not filed a single report for a period of three years, despite a significant amount of suspicious customer activity. Ping also admitted that it conducted money transactions in states where it was not licensed to do so, including Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, West Virginia and Connecticut. The company claimed to have software that could detect and deter broadcasts started in “unlicensed” states, but in reality the program didn’t work, it admitted. In its summaries for the state’s regulatory authorities, Ping chose to include a column labeled “IP Location,” but only recorded states in which Ping was properly licensed: Texas, Maryland, Georgia, Washington, and Washington , DC.

Fingering other Nigerians

According to the DOJ’s statement, three individuals — including two of Ping’s top clients — have previously pleaded guilty to transferring illegally obtained money through Ping.

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“One, Collins Orogun, admitted last week that he was accepting compensation in exchange for transferring money for ‘romantic scammers’ and other criminals. In one case, an Indiana woman sent $15,000 to “Carson Jacks,” an alleged oil grub in the Gulf of Mexico that she fell in love with online after he told her he had contracted malaria. In another case, a second Indiana woman sent $6,300 to “Thomas Ken,” an alleged Irish ship captain she fell in love with online to fix his ship. “In two years, Mr. Orogun received more than $1.3 million in cash, checks and wire transfers into various US bank accounts he managed, and then quickly moved more than $1 million of the money to Africa through Ping. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison and will be sentenced on January 23, 2023,” the statement read.

The Ping Express company now faces five years of probation and a fine of up to $500,000. The sentencing is set for December 19, 2022.

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