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US Makes 80 Arrests Over $46 Million Online Fraud

US authorities have charged 80 members of a Nigerian-based crime ring in connection with online scams designed to swindle victims around the world out of $46 million.

A 145-page indictment lists 252 charges against the 80 suspects, who are mostly Nigerian nationals. Charges of aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy to commit fraud have been brought against all of the accused.

Speaking at a press conference held earlier today, US attorney Nick Hanna described the fraud as "one of the largest cases of its kind in US history."

Nigerian-born Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe were named as co-conspirators who allegedly worked alongside people in Nigeria and in the US to dupe victims into transferring money overseas. 

Iro and Igbokwe, who were arrested in the US, are accused of fraudulently getting their mitts on $6 million as part of a larger conspiracy intended to bag a cool $46 million.  
 
The internet scams at the center of this case promised victims romance or riches in return for financial assistance. 

The case began when a single bank account aroused the suspicions of the FBI back in 2016. The investigation expanded to include numerous victims around the world.

One woman in Japan fell victim to the scammers after becoming a digital pen pal on an international social network. The woman, who is referred to in court papers as F.K., was fooled into thinking she had found love with a US Army captain stationed in Syria. 

Over the course of a fictitious 10-month online romance, F.K. sent daily messages to Cpt. Terry Garcia and $200,000 to help him smuggle diamonds out of the country. Neither Garcia nor the stash of diamonds turned out to be real.

F.K. was left heartbroken and virtually bankrupt after borrowing money from her friends, her sister and even her ex-husband.

F.K. and other victims in this case were tricked by sophisticated versions of the Nigerian prince scam, also known as the 419 scam after the criminal code used for fraud in Nigeria. 

Despite being almost as old as email, 419 scams are effective because they exploit vulnerabilities in humans. And they are likely to remain so unless technology can find a bug fix for greed or love.

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