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On Dec. 7, 2022, Awolola Oladayo Opeyemi was one of two Nigerian men found guilty and sentenced to jail for aiding a transnational love scam.
According to the The Straits Times, the 38-year-old faces five years of jail time after pleading guilty to three counts of working with others to receive the benefits of criminal conduct linked to more than S$550,000 in losses.
Awolola confessed to recruiting two Singaporean women as money mules.
One of the victims, Suhaili Suparjo, has come forth with her story.
How it started
Suhaili first met Awolola through Facebook in 2016.
His profile displayed pictures of his social life and seemed authentic. He introduced himself as an international student enrolled in a college at Kuala Lumpur.
"Suhaili agreed to befriend Awolola as she was intrigued by the fact that a man of a different nationality was taking interest in her," her lawyer Yamuna Balakrishnan told CNA.
The defence attorney said the couple bonded over texts, calls and video chats.
She added that Suhaili was charmed by Awolola's "sweet gestures" which were "a far cry from the many men she had dated or met".
For their first in-person meeting, they had doughnuts and milkshakes at Johor Bahru City Square.
"Suhaili was ready to defy her mother's wishes and live with Awolola in Malaysia. She was later introduced to Awolola's friends as his girlfriend. His friends said it was the first time he introduced a woman to them and said he was indeed in love and serious," CNA wrote.
Over S$356,000 laundered
Describing the member of the African crime syndicate as the "dream guy" of her "newfound fairy-tale love", Suhaili agreed to lend him her bank account to receive funds on his behalf.
Suhaili's account transacted nearly S$256,000 between June and August 2017, and S$100,200 in January 2018.
The 32-year-old would withdraw the money and travel to Malaysia to hand it over to her lover.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li had this to say about such love scams:
"The scammer would cultivate a romantic relationship with the victim, gaining their trust. The scammer then made requests for money from the victims, using various false premises, and leveraging the relationship and trust that the scammer had cultivated.
The victims, trusting the scammer, would then make bank transfers or hand cash over in accordance with instructions from the scammer."
Then came the baby
In early 2017, Suhaili found out she was pregnant.
Awolola was elated and told her to keep the baby.
He faithfully accompanied Suhaili to medical checkups and "said he would do anything to marry Suhaili, including converting to Islam," said Yamuna.
Even after being informed of his crimes, Suhaili continued to aid Awolola in his illegal transactions because he gaslit her.
He screamed at her: "If you choose to leave me, you will end up being a single mum and raise this child alone."
The defence lawyer added that "[Suhaili] tried to reject Awolola's request on one occasion, but Awolola pushed the heavily pregnant woman to the ground".
In September 2017, Suhaili went into labour and fainted at the customs.
Her daughter was born premature.
During Awolola's time in jail, he once again contacted Suhaili via Facebook, begging for forgiveness. However, "Suhaili no longer wanted to be deceived by him and ignored him".
According to CNA, Suhaili was dealt 15 months' jail on Feb. 21 after pleading guilty to two counts of helping to retain benefits from criminal conduct, under the Corruption, Drug Trafficking and Other Serious Crimes (Confiscation of Benefits) Act.
ST reported that Suhaili's defence was based on her claim of being "blindly in love" and that she "did not gain any financial benefit from the offences".
Suhaili also appealed for a lesser sentence since she was the sole guardian of her daughter.
The judge allowed her to defer her jail time.
Her bail was set at S$15,000 and she is to surrender herself at the State Courts on Mar. 7 to begin serving her sentence.
Top photo via Unsplash
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