(August 30, 2019) – The FBI indicted 80 people, mostly Nigerian citizens, with fraud, money laundering, and identity theft charges. The defendants are under suspicion of having conducted numerous online scams including romance and business email compromise (BEC) scams. The suspects fraudulently obtained US$6 million and attempted to steal at least US$40 million, which makes it one of the biggest online scam cases in the U.S., according to U.S. authorities.
After a two year investigation, on August 22, the FBI charged 80 people in connection with an online scam that allegedly targeted millions of vulnerable victims worldwide. 14 of the defendants were arrested across the U.S. – 11 in the Los Angeles area, two were already in custody, and authorities assume that many live abroad, U.S. media report. The federal investigators plan to work with the respective governments to extradite them. All accused are facing charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some will also face fraud and money laundering charges.
It is assumed that the international online scams were coordinated by two ringleaders: Valentine Iro, 31, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, both Nigerian citizens who resided in Los Angeles County. Both have been arrested on August 22. They operated fraudulent bank accounts and laundered the money deceitfully obtained. CNN reports, once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States, and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men coordinated the receipt of funds.
The online scammers used different schemes such as online romance scams or BEC scams to pursue their alleged victims into transferring money. In total, the fraudulent network obtained US$6 million and attempted to steal at least US$40 million. Especially romance scams have been steadily on the rise. The imposters create fake profiles of fictive people targeting vulnerable individuals looking for love or companionship. After establishing a relationship via email and messages, the fraudsters seduce their victims into transferring funds by creating ever new crisis situations, they need the victim’s help overcoming.