February 26, 2024


Residential skyscrapers outside luxury villas on the waterfront of Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, January 19, 2023.

Christopher Peck | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A United Arab Emirates resident and Nigerian citizen were sentenced to eight years in federal prison for orchestrating a multimillion-dollar fraud scheme that victimized businesses across the United States, federal prosecutors in Illinois said.

Olaekan Jacob Ponle was extradited from the United Arab Emirates to FBI custody in July 2020 until pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud earlier this year, the Justice Department said in a news release Tuesday.

Ponle works with a network of scammers using phishing emails to masquerade as corporate entities. Scammers trick employees into sending money on behalf of an “employer” who is indeed a scammer.

Ponle, better known as Woodberry, is a minor celebrity in his native Nigeria thanks to his social media splurge.

Ponle relied on a network of “muses” to receive funds and convert them into the bitcoins he received. The Nigerian national used the proceeds of the scam to purchase ultra-high-end vehicles, including a Rolls-Royce Cullinan and a Lamborghini Urus.

Ponle will confiscate the items, with a combined value of more than $1 million, and pay more than $8 million in damages to the injured companies. As of Wednesday, Ponle had seized 151 bitcoins worth more than $4.5 million.

Pomlay was indicted despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the UAE and the United States. Federal officials from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs worked with authorities in the United Arab Emirates to secure Pamper’s extradition.