Nigerian long jump athlete faces 20-year sentence over money laundering case in US

Mercy Abire, a Nigerian long jumper, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering in the United States.

This admission puts Abire at risk of a huge 20-year prison sentence, a significant development in a case that exposes an intricate web of fraudulent activities involving Nigerian athletes.

In a statement, the US Justice Department confirmed Abire’s guilty plea, saying the athlete participated in a large operation from 2018 to 2022.

Abire, along with her co-conspirators, exploited online romance scams, charity scams, and other forms of fraudulent schemes to deceive individuals and illicitly amassed funds.

The ill-gotten gains were subsequently transferred among the co-conspirators, with a substantial portion of the funds finding their way overseas.

Specifically, between November 2018 and April 2019, Abire reportedly transferred more than $100,000 to her co-conspirators using her U.S. bank account.

The indictment details a sophisticated operation demonstrating the breadth and sophistication of the fraudulent actions of the persons implicated.

In a joint statement, US Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Jermicha Fomby stressed the gravity of the crimes.

Abire’s sentencing is set for 30 August, according to the statement. In the case of a conviction, the final sentence will be determined by a federal district court using the United States Sentencing Guidelines and other relevant statutory criteria.

A former Nigerian U-18 long jump champion, Abire, 26, previously pursued her studies at the esteemed Louisiana State University.

Her athletic career culminated in participation in the Nigeria qualification trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, in July 2019.

Abire’s case is not an isolated incident, as the Nigerian sports community finds itself embroiled in a broader legal predicament.

Other athletes, including Raymond Ekevwo, Anikeme Etim, Emmanuel Ineh, and Toluwani Adebakin, were also apprehended last year on suspicion of mail and wire fraud

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