A Nigerian resident faces charges that he set up an online dating profile using a photo of Montana’s attorney general and falsified stories about overseas business problems to scam several women.
Felony charges against Kazeem Owonla were filed last month in Indiana, where one woman reported sending more than $100,000 to a man who represented himself as John Tony Hagan, an electrical engineer who was working in Egypt.
Owonla, 44, was arrested Wednesday when he got off an airplane in Atlanta and waived extradition to Indiana on Thursday during a hearing in Clayton County Magistrate Court. Clayton County records did not indicate if Owonla has an attorney.
His bond in Indiana is set at $150,000 cash, enough to cover the women’s losses, Kosciusko County prosecutors said.
The photo used on the Hagan profile was taken from Montana Attorney General Tim Fox’s campaign website without his permission.
In August, Fox’s spokesman, John Barnes, said the attorney general was upset his image was used in the scam. He noted the con artist chose the photo of someone who oversees consumer protection and warns citizens of scams.
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The Indiana woman who first complained said she met “Hagan” online in January 2014 and by the next month he was asking her for money.
The woman said Hagen told her he needed money to replace his stolen tools. She said she sent him $5,600. The woman also responded to requests for $12,000 to pay his workers and for $25,000 to replace money that was supposedly stolen when his interpreter was stabbed after they made a bank withdrawal. In June, the woman provided investigators with receipts showing she wired or made bank transfers totaling more than $100,000 to the man she believed was Hagan, court records said.
“It got pretty intense fairly quickly,” the woman told WNDU-TV in July on the condition the station not use her name because she was embarrassed that she fell for the scam. “Lots of passion and attention.”
A deputy found the bank transfers from the woman were ending up in an account owned by Owonla, who was in the U.S. on a visitor’s visa last year.
The investigation also turned up a $1,550 bank transfer from an Ohio woman who told a similar story. She met a man online who identified himself as Henry Tesone, an electrical engineer in South Africa who was headed to Egypt to work. He also used stolen tools and other similar reasons to get the Ohio woman to send him a total of $11,590.
The deputy’s investigation turned up a third bank transfer of nearly $8,200 from a woman who may be another victim. He is still trying to locate her.