“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history.”
(US Attorney Nick Hanna)
The FBI announced this week that over a dozen were under arrest in the US and efforts were being made to find additional co-conspirators around the world in fraud schemes involving at least 32 victims.
Here is The Hill on this good news,
Justice charges 80 in massive online fraud case linked to Nigerian defendants
The Department of Justice on Thursday unsealed a 252-count federal indictment charging 80 defendants, many of whom are Nigerian nationals, with conspiring to steal millions of dollars through online scams.
The indictment was unsealed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and was made public shortly after authorities arrested 14 of the defendants across the United States, with 11 of these defendants apprehended in the Los Angeles region. The majority of the defendants are outside the country, with many likely in Nigeria.
The defendants involved in the case were charged with attempting to defraud individuals of millions of dollars through the use of business email compromise (BEC) and online romance scams, in addition to other schemes meant to target the elderly.
The investigation is being led by the FBI, with each of the defendants charged with “conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft,” according to Justice Department. Some defendants also face fraud and money laundering charges.
U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna described the scams used by the defendants during a press conference on Thursday, saying that “fraud networks now target individuals and businesses alike.”
“In the BEC scams, the fraudsters will often hack a company’s email system, impersonate company personnel, and direct payments to bank accounts that funnel money back to the fraudsters in Nigeria,” Hanna said. “In the romance scams, victims think they are developing a dating relationship, when in fact they are just being tricked into sending money to the fraudsters.”
Hanna added that “we believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history.”
Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said during the same press conference that losses involved in this case for victims total around $10 million. He said defendants attempted to obtain $40 million from victims.
There were at least 32 victims in the case, from the United States and other countries including Japan, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Ukraine, China, Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Delacourt said the case began in 2016 after one individual was victimized by the defendants. The two main defendants in the case are Nigerian citizens Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe.
And, don’t miss the Stars and Stripes story about how some of the crooks pretended to be US military personnel when they scammed hundreds of thousands from lonely women.
I know you are shaking your head and wondering who in their right mind would be so foolish to send money to a stranger they met on the internet. Well, as we have heard in previous posts on Nigerian romance scammers, these Nigerian creeps are skilled actors and preying on vulnerable and lonely people seems to come naturally to them.
Keep an eye on your elderly friends and family members and don’t let them fall for these despicable scams.