80 people have been charged by the FBI in a “massive conspiracy” to defraud millions of dollars from businesses, the elderly and vulnerable women, according to Oxygen. Most of those charged were Nigerian nationals, according to the report.
Those charged were accused of using various online scams to deceive targets and convince them to hand over “at least $6 million”. The group “attempted to steal another $40 million” after that.
The suspects were said to have used both “romance scams” and “business schemes” that allowed them to hack into company escrow accounts. U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said: “We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history.”
One scheme uncovered was a Japanese woman who thought she had been conversing with a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria.
The two were pen pals before the relationship turned romantic and the man – we swear we are not making this up – “claimed he had discovered a bag of diamonds in Syria.” He sought the woman’s help and asked her to send money. The woman borrowed from family, friends and even her ex-husband, before sending over $200,000 to the man over the course of 10 months.
Authorities later revealed the scheme was being run by “two Nigerian men based in Los Angeles” who relied on associates in Nigeria and other countries to assist them. The woman was “extremely depressed and angry about these losses,” the federal complaint against the men stated.
About a week ago, the United State’s Attorney’s Office Central District of California unsealed a 252-count federal grand jury indictment charging 80 people in the “massive conspiracy.” The two ringleaders of the group, Valentine Iro, 31, and Chukwudi Chrisogunus Igbokwe, 38, oversaw an “extensive money laundering network,” the complaint says.
They are among 17 who have been arrested by authorities. Many other suspects live in other countries and Federal authorities are seeking to work to extradite those charged. They face conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft charges.
Hanna concluded: “This case is part of our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from fraudulent online schemes and to bring to justice those who prey upon American citizens and businesses. Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use BEC schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims. This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators – no matter where they reside – and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.”