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Missouri woman who helped with romance scam pleads guilty

March 3, 2021 GMT

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A woman from St. Louis County admitted Wednesday that she participated in a romance scam that targeted middle-aged or older women.

Trenice Hassel, 28, pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agency.

She persuaded another woman to open a post office box in Berkeley, knowing it would be used for illegal activity, prosecutors said. She and the other woman lied to postal officials about who would be using the box.

Prosecutors said the scam, which began in 2019, duped women across the country into sending valuable items to the post office box. The victims believed the box was used either by a real estate agent or a diplomat’s secretary.

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When Hassel was indicted in September, investigators said at least 40 women lost more than $500,000 in cash and electronics.

Ovuoke Frank Ofikoro and Bonmene Sibe are accused of send part of the money to Nigeria. Both have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors said the suspects pretended to be high-ranking military officers deployed overseas and expressed romantic interest in women ranging in age from 45 to 82.