The suspected fraudsters, many of whom are Nigerian nationals, prosecutors say, who used online romance scams, schemes targeting elderly people and business email compromise (BEC)
Last Thursday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) unsealed a 252-count federal grand jury indictment against them.
“A 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed today charges 80 defendants, most of whom are Nigerian nationals, with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network.” reads the press release published by DoJ.
14 people have been arrested in the US, but others abroad and mainly in Nigeria.
Crooks targeted small and large businesses, and law firms worldwide, along with individuals
DoJ says that the criminal organization has stolen at least $6 million and attempted to steal a further $40 million.
Nigerian citizens, Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, acted as brokers of fraudulent bank accounts.
“According to the indictment, Iro and Igbokwe collected bank accounts, fielded requests for bank account information, provided that information to co-conspirators around the world, and laundered the money obtained from victims – all of this in exchange for a cut of the money stolen from victims of the various fraud schemes.” reads the press release.
The massive Business Email Compromise (BEC) and romance scam network included a team of money mules would withdraw money from the bank accounts or participated in the money laundering scheme with wire transfers and cashier’s checks. When stolen funds were withdrawn as cash, the defendants often used illicit money exchangers to transfer the funds overseas. Prosecutors discovered that the gang used a Nigerian banking application to transfer millions of dollars and convert the currency into Nigeria’s local Naira.
Money mules would receive a percentage of the profits in return for their activity.
The 80 defendants are being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft.
Seven defendants are charged with operating
The investigation is the result of a joint effort of the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, the US immigration and customs offices, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the California Franchise Tax Board.