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The Straits Times
Feb 21, 2023
She fell in love with a member of a Nigerian criminal group carrying out love scams from Malaysia and even had a child with him.
Leveraging this relationship, Awolola Oladayo Opeyemi convinced Suhaili Suparjo to act as a money mule, to receive cash in person and through her bank accounts.
The Singaporean would travel to Malaysia to hand him the cash.
On Tuesday, Suhaili, 33, was sentenced to 15 months’ jail after she pleaded guilty to two counts of helping another person retain the benefits of criminal conduct involving more than $356,000.
In December 2021, Awolola, then 37, was sentenced in a Singapore district court to five years’ jail after he pleaded guilty to three counts of working with others to receive the benefits of criminal conduct linked to more than $550,000 in losses.
Deputy Public Prosecutor Jordon Li said the love scam involved the con artist getting to know victims by using false identities on the Internet.
The scammer would start a romantic relationship with victims to gain their trust and then ask them for money. The victims would make bank transfers or hand over cash to others based on instructions they received.
Awolola went to Malaysia to purportedly further his education. Instead, he became part of the love scam syndicate and its criminal activities.
He worked with a scammer known only as Fola, who would cheat the victims.
Awolola would then recruit money mules to help receive funds from the victims on the syndicate’s behalf.
DPP Li said the Nigerian got into romantic relationships with Singaporeans before recruiting them as money mules. Suhaili was one of those he recruited.
Court documents did not disclose how the pair first met but Suhaili entered into an arrangement with Awolola for her bank account in Singapore to receive monies on his behalf.
Between June and August 2017, the account was used to receive benefits of criminal conduct totalling nearly $256,000.
Suhaili would withdraw the monies, travel to Malaysia and hand them over to Awolola.
Two other Singaporean women made police reports, stating that they were love scam victims and that they had transferred cash to Suhaili’s bank account.
The authorities in Singapore also received information from their counterparts in Canada and Macau about women there who were scammed into transferring cash to the same bank account.
Suhaili received $100,200 from another victim in January 2018. She then travelled to Malaysia to hand it to Awolola.
On April 16, 2019, Malaysian police arrested Awolola in Kuala Lumpur. He was taken to Singapore and charged in court in May 2019.
Defence lawyer Yamuna Balakrishnan told the court that Suhaili, who was then “blindly in love” with Awolola, did not gain any financial benefit from the offences.
Suhaili’s bail was set at $15,000 on Tuesday and she is expected to surrender herself at the State Courts on March 7 to begin serving her sentence.