United States v. Ayelotan, No. 17-60397 (5th Cir. 2019)Annotate this Case
The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendants' convictions and sentences for their participation in a scheme to pose as singles looking for romantic relationships online, only to swindle their victims into sending money to Nigeria and South Africa. Defendants would steal personal information and then impersonate the victims, getting cash advances and transferring funds out of the victims' accounts. Then defendants cultivated online relationships, convincing their "paramours" to launder their money.
The court held that shackling defendants at trial was not an abuse of discretion; the emails and copy of Defendant Mewase's passport was admissible; and the district court properly remove and replaced Juror 20 where the district court identified legally relevant reasons for removal, such as sleeping through witness testimony, misrepresenting this fact to the district court, not understanding the jury instructions, and not deliberating. The court held that the district court did not clearly err by applying the leadership enhancement to Defendant Ayelotan and Raheem's sentences; Ayelotan and Raheem's within-Guidelines sentences did not violate the Eighth Amendment; the district court did not clearly err in determining the intended loss calculation was over $25 million; and the sentences were substantively reasonable.