Authorities in the US have arrested 80 scam artists, many of them Nigerians, in an international fraud and money laundering operation that stole $46 million from internet con job victims.
A 252-count grand jury indictment was unsealed last Thursday that revealed the charges brought against the large group of scammers. She venteen people were arrested and taken into custody in Los Angeles and other cities in the United States, Al Jazeera reports.
The investigation began in 2016 with a single bank account and one victim, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. The suspects used a variety of scams where they convinced the vulnerable within the elderly community, those seeking romantic relationships, and small and large businesses, to send them money online.
“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history,” US Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”
The indictment alleges two Nigerians – Valentine Iro, 33, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, ran the operation that secured at least $6 million from unsuspecting victims. The pair were among those arrested.
One of the victims, a Japanese woman only identified as “F.K.” in court papers, reportedly was “extremely depressed and angry about these losses”, the federal complaint stated.
“She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her.”
FK had started an online relationship with a fraudster named Terry Garcia, who claimed to be stationed in Syria. She ultimately lost $200,000 and became on the verge of bankruptcy after Garcia convinced her that he found a bag of diamonds in Syria within a month of their relationship, and began introducing her to his associates who needed her to send them funds.
In total, FK made 35 to 40 payments after receiving as many as 10 to 15 emails a day directing her to send money to accounts in the US, Turkey and the United Kingdom to Garcia’s alleged associates, Al Jazeera reports. At one point, the woman was even threatened with arrest if she did not make the payments.
FK had borrowed money from her sister, ex-husband and friends to help Garcia with his fraudulent plan. But following a 3-year investigation, the victim might see some type of justice.
All those arrested face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, with some facing many other charges.
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