A Milton used car salesman banked on the fact that romance and payroll scams don’t end up on a vehicle history report as he laundered money through shipping cars overseas.
Augustine Osemwegie, 54, of Milton, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of money laundering, which could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Osemwegie registered a used car dealership, Ejad Auto Sales, in Fall River on May 2, 2019, and listed his children and other family members in other leadership positions with the company.
The feds say Osemwegie was part of a network of Nigerian and Massachusetts fraudsters — which as of a Summer 2020 plea deal then included a criminal informant, according to a court affidavit — and was the final operator in a money-laundering scheme.
Osemwegie would receive money from the person who was secretly cooperating with law enforcement, who had in turn received it from operators of payroll and romance frauds, and use it to buy used cars in Massachusetts auctions that he would then ship overseas to sell to dealers in Nigeria, who would pay for the cars in Nigerian currency.
That currency would then be legitimized, or laundered, through the auto sales and deposited into a number of Nigerian bank accounts connected to the fraudsters.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data shows that Ejad Auto Sales exported 183 vehicles from the U.S. to Nigeria and two vehicles to Cotonou, Benin from Nov. 8, 2018 to Aug. 13, 2021 — a total value of more than $1.1 million or about $6,105 per vehicle — according to court filings.
Osemwegie in September 2020 told a confidential source — who claimed he wanted to launder money from unemployment and payroll protection scams — that he laundered money, taking a cut of at least 10% each time, for at least 10 people, according to the affidavit.