ST. LOUIS – An Ohio woman admitted to lying to federal investigators to try and recover tens of thousands of dollars that had been intercepted on its way to romance scammers in the St. Louis area.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Linda Matson pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal agent.
On April 29, 2020, U.S. Postal Inspectors found $50,000 that had fallen from an Express Mail package on a conveyor belt and later discovered a second $50,000 shipment in another package. Both packages were addressed to a P.O. box in Berkeley, Missouri, that was being used in a romance scam.
The postal inspectors reached out to Matson, 61, who admitted that she had been scammed into sending the money by someone pretending to be a high-ranking officer in the U.S. Army. But on May 18, 2020, she sent text messages to an inspector claiming she needed the money back in order to buy posters and t-shirts to help locate her missing 18-year-old niece.
Matson sent the postal inspector links to news articles and Facebook posts about a missing Ohio teenager in an attempt to convince the inspector she was telling the truth.
Matson told inspectors—and, later, prosecutors—that she intended to use the money for other reasons, and that she had lied to the inspector and the FBI.
The P.O. box was linked to two men, Ovuoke Frank Ofikoro and Bonmene Sibe, and other associates to trick women into sending them money.
A federal judge sentenced Sibe, 43, to five years and three months in prison this past May. That same judge sentenced Ofokoro, 43, to four years and two months in federal prison in June. Both men were ordered to repay more than $844,000 in restitution to their victims.
Meanwhile, Matson faces up to five years in prison as well as a $250,000 fine. She’ll be sentenced on November 16.