US authorities have announced charges against 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a wide-ranging fraud and money laundering operation that netted millions of dollars from victims of internet con jobs.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors unsealed the dozens of indictments after 17 people were arrested and taken into custody in Los Angeles and elsewhere in the United States.
Most of the remainder of those indicted were believed to be in Nigeria, the US Justice Department said.
A statement from the Justice Department reads:
“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.
“The indictment was unsealed after law enforcement authorities this morning arrested 14 defendants across the United States, with 11 of those arrests taking place in the Los Angeles region. Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and one was arrested earlier this week. The remaining defendants are believed to be abroad, with most them located in Nigeria.
“The indictment alleges that the 80 defendants and others used various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly – to defraud victims out of millions of dollars. According to a criminal complaint also unsealed today, co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries contacted the lead defendants in the indictment – Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens – for bank and money-service accounts that could receive funds fraudulently obtained from victims. Once members of the conspiracy convinced victims to send money under false pretenses, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the receipt of funds and oversaw an extensive money-laundering network, according to the 145-page indictment.
“The indictment and criminal complaint allege that Iro and Igbokwe, who were among those arrested this morning, were involved in schemes resulting in the fraudulent transfer of at least $6 million in fraudulently-obtained funds – and the overall conspiracy was responsible for the attempted theft of at least an additional $40 million.
“The fraudsters targeted victims in the United States and across the globe, including individuals, small and large businesses, and law firms. Some of the victims of the conspiracy lost hundreds of thousands of dollars to fraud schemes, and many were elderly.
“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,” said United States Attorney Nick Hanna. “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.”
“Today’s announcement highlights the extensive efforts that organized criminal groups will engage in to perpetrate BEC schemes that target American citizens and their hard-earned assets,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims. The FBI is committed to working with our partner agencies worldwide to continue to identify these cyber criminals and to dismantle their networks.”
“Iro and Igbokwe essentially were 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.
“If a bank account with a specific business name was required to trick a business-victim into making a payment, Iro and Igbokwe often coordinated with “money mules” to open accounts that could receive funds obtained, according to court documents. In addition to making the fake business name mirror the name of a legitimate company, members of the conspiracy routinely filed fictitious business name statements with the Los Angeles County Registrar/Recorder’s Office that were presented to banks when the fraudulent accounts were opened.
“Once a victim deposited funds into a bank account or a money services account, Iro and Igbokwe allegedly coordinated with others to further launder the funds. Members of the conspiracy sometimes wired funds to other bank accounts under their control; in other cases, they simply withdrew funds as cash or negotiable instruments such as cashier’s checks.
“When stolen funds were withdrawn as cash, the defendants frequently used illicit money exchangers to move funds overseas, generally avoiding transferring the funds directly through banking institutions, the indictment alleges. To do this, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the transfer of a victim’s funds from a fraudulent bank account they controlled to U.S. bank accounts belonging to illicit money exchangers. Those money exchangers, in turn, used a Nigerian banking application to transfer other funds in naira (₦), the currency of Nigeria, from Nigerian bank accounts they controlled to the Nigerian bank accounts specified by Iro and Igbokwe. This method was used to transfer millions of dollars to Nigerian co-conspirators without directly transferring funds overseas. The indictment alleges that Jerry Ikogho, 50, of Carson (who was taken into custody on Sunday), and Adegoke Moses Ogungbe, 34, of Fontana, were among those who served as illicit money exchangers for the conspiracy.
“Each of the 80 defendants named in the indictment is charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. A number of the defendants also face substantive fraud and money laundering charges.
“Additionally, Iro, Igbokwe, Ikogho, Ogungbe and three other defendants –Izuchukwu Kingsley Umejesi, 30, of Los Angeles, Tityaye Marina Mansbangura, 33, of Palmdale, and Obi Madekwe, 31, of Nigeria – are charged with operating illegal money transmitting businesses. Ogungbe and Mansbangura were also among those arrested this morning, and Umejesi is a fugitive currently being sought by authorities.
“Iro, Igbokwe and Chuks Eroha, 39, face additional charges for attempting to destroy their phones when the FBI executed a search warrant in July 2017. Iro also is charged with lying to the FBI in an interview conducted during the search. The complaint alleges that, when the FBI arrived to conduct the court-authorized search at Iro’s apartment in Carson, Iro broke his phone in half, while Igbokwe and Eroha threw phones from a bedroom window of the apartment. While Iro claimed he previously had broken the phone during an argument with his wife, the complaint details how the FBI was able to determine that the phone was operational until seconds after the FBI knocked on Iro’s apartment door to execute the search warrant. Eroha is believed to have fled to Nigeria shortly after the FBI executed the warrant.
“The charges contained in the criminal complaint and indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
“This investigation is being led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the United States Department of State provided substantial assistance during the investigation.
“Several agencies provided support during today’s takedown or during the investigation, including the United States Postal Inspection Service, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office and the California Franchise Tax Board.
“Many of the FBI’s Legal Attachés provided assistance throughout this investigation, as did the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, and foreign authorities around the world. In particular, the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office thank the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom and the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Osnabrück, Germany for their contributions.
“This case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Anil J. Antony and Joseph B. Woodring of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section.
“The FBI in 2017 issued a report on the rise of BEC schemes, and published a recap of 2018’s Operation WireWire, which was an international effort to disrupt international BEC scams. An FBI public service announcement that warns of the dangers of BEC schemes encourages businesses to “trust but verify.”
Below is a full list of Nigerians who were named in the scam list.
1. VALENTINE IRO, aka “Iro Enterprises,” aka “Valentine Obinna Iro ,” aka ” Obinna Iro ,” 16 aka ” Obinna Nassa,”
2. CHUKWUDI CHRI STOGUNUS IGBOKWE, aka ” Christogunus C. Igbokwe,” aka ” Chris Kudon ,” aka “Atete ,” aka “Still Kudon ,”
3. JERRY ELO IKOGHO , aka “J Man,”
4. IZUCHUKWU KINGSLEY UMEJESI, aka ” Kingsley Umejesi, ” aka “Armeni an Man,” aka “Kingsley LA,” aka “I zuking Aka Aku ,”
5. ADEGOKE MOSES OGUNGBE , aka “P & P Motors,” aka “Pp, ”
6. ALBERT LEWIS CATHEY, aka “Alb, ” aka “Abert Jag,” aka “Al,”
7. TITYAYE MARINA MANSBANGURA, aka “Tityaye Igbokwe ,” aka “Marina Mansour,” aka “Marina Mansaray,” aka “Marina Tityaye Mans Bangura,”
8. CHUKWUDI COLLINS AJAEZE, aka “Thank You Jesus”
9. EKENE AUGUSTINE EKECHUKWU, aka “Ogedi Power,” aka “Power,”
10. CHUKS EROHA, aka “Chuks Nassa Iro,” aka “Nassa,” aka “Prince Chuddy,” aka “Nurse Chuddy,”
11. COLLINS NNAEMEKA OJIMBA, aka “Collins Emeka Ojimba,” aka “Ojimba Collins,” aka “Charly.Africa,”
12. FNU LNU, aka “Xplora G,”
13. UCHENNA OCHIAGHA, aka “Urch Agu,” aka “Advanced Mega Plus Ltd,”
14. NNAMDI THEOJOSEPH DURU, aka “Duru Theo Joseph Nnamdi,” aka “Williams High School,” aka “Ifytyns,”
15. ERICSON UCHE OFORKA, aka “Oforka,” aka “Eric Oforka,”
16. MARK IFEANYI CHUKWUOCHA, aka “Mark Iheanyi Chukwuocha,” aka “Chukwu Mark,” aka “Markife,”
17. AUGUSTINE NNAMDI, aka “Nnamdi Augustine,” aka “Jazz,”
18. CHIEMEZIE CHRISTOPHER CHILAKA, aka “Fanta,”
19. CHARLES OHAJIMKPO, aka “Giggs,” aka “Ryan Giggs,” aka “Charles,”
20. STANLEY UGOCHUKWU UCHE, aka “Ugo Law,” aka “Uche Stanley,” aka “He is risen.Happy Easter!,”
21. CHIKA AUGUSTINE ODIONYENMA, aka “Tony Augustin Odionyenma,” aka “Chika Tony,” aka “CTA Finance Source Intl,”
22. PASCHAL CHIMA OGBONNA, aka “Chima,” aka “Paschal,”
23. SAMUEL NNAMDI ONWUASOANYA, aka “Sammy Lee Nnamdi,” aka “Onwuasoanya Samuel Nnamdi,” aka “Enugu Ogo,”
24. MACWILLIAM CHINONSO CHUKWUOCHA, aka “ChiBoy,”
25. EMMANUEL ONYEKA UZOKA, aka “Emmanuel Mansion,” aka “Mansion,” aka “Son of God,” aka “Ezirim Uzoma,”
26. JOSHUA ANIEFIOK AWAK, aka “Joe Awk,” aka “Kwee Tin Law,”
27. GEORGE UGOCHUKWU EGWUMBA, aka “George Ugo,” aka “Ugo Aunty Scholar,”
28. UCHECHUKWU SOLOMON EZIRIM, aka “Uche Nwanne,” aka “Uche Ezirim,”
29. AUGUSTINE IFEANYI OKAFOR, aka “Zero,” aka “St.Austine,” aka “Austine,” aka “Ifeanyichukwu Okafor,”
30. FNU LNU, aka “Okay Sam Mal,” LESLIE N. MBA, aka “Mystical,” aka “Nwachinemere Leslie,”
31. OGOCHUKWU INNOCENT IKEWESI, aka “Ogoo UK,” aka “Innocent Ikewesi,”
32. EMMANUEL UZOMA OGANDU, aka “Nwachinaemere,” aka “Uzoma,”
33. AMARACHUKWU HARLEY ANYANWU, aka “GodisGod,” aka “War B,”
34. BRIGHT IFEANYI AZUBUIKE, aka “Bright Bauer Azubuike,” aka “Ifeanyi Jnr,”
35. EMEKA MOSES NWACHUKWU, aka “All Man,” aka “Omalitoto,” FNU LNU, aka “Donatus Izunwanne,” aka “Izunwanne Donatus Chibuikem,” aka “Deworlddonmax,”
36. CHINWENDU KENNETH OSUJI, aka “Father,”
37. EUSEBIUS UGOCHUKWU ONYEKA, aka “Ugo UK,” aka “sly19 sly,”
38. CHIDI ANUNOBI, aka “Anunobi Chidi,” aka “Chidioo,”
39. ANTHONY NWABUNWANNE OKOLO, aka “Eric West,” aka “Erci West,” aka “Code,”
40. OBINNA CHRISTIAN ONUWA, aka “Papa Chukwuezugo,” aka “Obinna Onuwa Abala,” aka “Obyno Abala,”
41. CHIJIOKE CHUKWUMA ISAMADE, aka “Mr CJ,” aka “CJ,”
42. LINUS NNAMDI MADUFOR, aka “Madufor Nnamdi,”
43. CHRYSAUGONUS NNEBEDUM, aka “Cris,”
44. UGOCHUKWU OKEREKE, aka “Blade,” aka “Kingsly Cris,” aka “Okereke Ugochukwu,”
45. FIDEL LEON ODIMARA, aka “Fiedel Odimara,” aka “Ndaa,” aka “Dee Dutchman,”
46. KINGSLEY CHINEDU ONUDOROGU, aka “OBJ,”
47. DESSI NZENWAH, aka “Desmond Sage,” aka “Des Nzenwa,” aka “Saga Lounge,”
48. CHIMAROKE OBASI, aka “Chima Russia”
49. JAMES CHIGOZIE AGUBE, aka “Smart,” aka “Smart Agube,” aka “Smart Chigozie Agube”
50. CHIMAOBI UZOZIE OKORIE, aka “Omaobi,” aka “Mobility,”
51. OGOCHUKWU OHIRI, aka “Ogomegbulam Ohiri,” aka “Ologbo,”
52. KENNEDY CHIBUEZE UGWU, aka “Kennedy David,”
53. IFEANYICHUKWU OLUWADAMILARE AGWUEGBO, aka “B$$ IFF¥,”
54. VICTOR IFEANYI CHUKWU, aka “Ifeannyi Soccer,” aka “Vic Chux,”
55. CHIDI EMMANUEL MEGWA, aka “Cantr,” aka “Canta Jr.,”
56. PRINCEWILL ARINZE DURU, aka “Arnzi Prince Will,” aka “Arinze,”
57. DESMOND IWU, aka “Desmond Chigozie Iwu,” aka “Lalaw,” aka “Odo Desmond,”
58. ONYEKA VINCENT CHIKA, aka “Chyco,” aka “Chika Ejima,” aka “Vincent Chika Onyeka,”
59. IFEANYI KINGSLEY MEZIENWA, aka “Ifeanyi Ali,” aka “Ifeanyichukwu Mezienwa,”
60. VICTOR UCHENNA AGUH, aka “Orch Sod,” aka “Uche SP,” aka “Rich Homie Urch,”
61. KEVIN AMARACHI ESHIMBU, aka “Humble,” aka “Humble Amarachukwu,” aka “Dato Humble,”
62. VITALIS KELECHI ANOZIE, aka “Kelechi Vitalis Anozie,” aka “Kelechi Anozieh,” aka “Pastor Kel Anozie,” aka “Pastor Kc,” aka “Choice,”
63. WILLIAMS OBIORA AGUNWA, aka “Don Williams,”
64. GEORGE CHIMEZIE DIKE, aka “Chimekros,” aka “Slim Dad…No…1,”
65. MUNACHISO KYRIAN UKACHUKWU, aka “Muna,”
66. NWANNEBUIKE OSMUND, aka “Osmund Nwannebuike,” aka “Olivite,” aka “Nikky Bro.,”
67. CHIDIEBERE FRANKLIN NWANGWU, aka “Frank Chidi,” aka “Franklin Nwangwu,” aka “Agogo,”
68. DAMIAN UCHECHUKWU AJAH, aka “Uche Ajah,” aka “Ajah Damian Uchechukwu,” aka “Uchechukwu Demian Ajah,”
69. EMEKA P. EJIOFOR, aka “Ejiofor Emeka,”
70. LAWRENCE CHUKWUMA UBASINEKE, aka “Ubasineke Chuks,” aka “Chukwuma Ubasineke,”
71. CHINEDU BRIGHT IBETO, aka “Doggy,” aka “Doggy Lucino,”
72. VALENTINE AMARACHI NWANEGWO, aka “Satis,” aka “Satis Amarachi Satis,”
73. EMMANUEL CHIDIEBERE DIKE, aka “Emmanet,”
74. JEREMIAH UTIEYIN EKI, aka “Uti,” CHINAKA DAVIDSON IWUOHA, aka “Tmrw Afrika Will Wake Up,” aka “Cookie,” aka “All Africa Media Network,”
75. CHIMA DARLINGTON DURU, aka “Kajad,” aka “Kajad Jesus,”
76. IKENNA CHRISTIAN IHEJIUREME, aka “Piper,” aka “Am Happy!,”
77. OBI ONYEDIKA MADEKWE, aka “Odu Investment,”
Just In: Oyo govt. withdraws criminal case against Akinlabi
A criminal case instituted by the Oyo State government against Hon. Kamil Akinlabi, a former member of the Federal House of Representative and Chairman, Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency (OYSROMA) has been discontinued and withdrawn by the State.
The suit (Oyo state govt vs Akinlabi) Hoy/5c/2016 which was to be revisited after several adjournments, was on Tuesday dismissed by Justice Iyabo Yerima at court Four of the Federal High Court in Ibadan.
The discontinuation was at the instance of the power of the State’s Attorney General, Prof. Oyelowo Oyewo, who told the court in a letter to discontinue the case which was taken to court in 2016 by a revered traditional ruler.
While reacting to the development, Akinlabi, who was appointed by the Seyi Makinde administration as the Chairman, Oyo State Road Maintenance Agency (OYSROMA) in 2019, said he was happy that justice prevailed on the matter despite that it took a long time.
“I must give kudos to the judiciary, you should see the unbiased prosecution of the case from the beginning till it was discontinued, it reaffirmed the fact that the court of law is truly the last hope for the common man.
“It is one thing to take an action and it is another thing to be ready to bear the consequence of that action, this I have shown and we are happy that the matter spoke for itself, even when charges were amended about two or three times, but I am glad to tell you today that it is a new dawn.
“The Ministry of Justice came in today and withdrew the charges, the reasons, best known to them, but we thank God and whoever was behind the decision and this has given me the opportunity to accept that this is the period when the rule of law is held sacred.”
Akinlabi further urged government to improve the facilities in the law courts so as to make the judicial system better in its service to the people.
He lamented that Justices still write judgments with long hands when technology could be deployed for such, averring that introduction of modern technology would help hasten cases in law courts.
Ibadan: Couple Arraigned For Allegedly Stealing N2.7m From Bank
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibadan zonal office on Tuesday, arraigned an ex-banker, Akinwole Oluwaseun Dosunmu, alongside his wife, Motunrayo Olanike Dosunmu before Justice Ladiran Akintola of the Oyo State High Court, sitting in Ibadan.
The duo were accused of stealing the sum of N2, 740,300.92 (Two Million, Seven Hundred and Forty Thousand, Three Hundred Naira, Ninety-Two kobo) from the Sterling Bank Plc.
According to the available information, Akinwole was a staffer of the bank, while his wife was a customer and a beneficiary in the bank’s Third Party Acquirer Scheme.
The bank had initiated the scheme as a marketing strategy through which relatives and friends of their marketing agents are awarded commission for bringing new customers to open and operate new accounts with the bank. Akinwole, also a marketer with the bank, was appointed to coordinate the scheme.
Apart from the commission on account opening, the referral also enjoys certain percentage on the saving made through the accounts every month.
It was, however, alleged that while reviewing activities under the scheme in 2016, the bank discovered that most of the accounts appropriated to Motunrayo as a third-party acquirer were fraudulently tagged to her by her husband.
The investigation allegedly further revealed that the accounts were never sourced by neither of the couple, but by other third-party agents.
According to the petition filed by the bank, the couple had benefited a total of N2, 740,300.9292 as commission fraudulently paid to Motunrayo through the scheme.
It was on account of the allegation and further investigations by the EFCC that the couple were arraigned on a 16-count charge of stealing on Tuesday.
The offence is contrary to Section 390 (9) of the Criminal Code Laws CAP 38, Laws of Oyo State, 2000.
Count one of the charge reads: That you, Akinwole Oluwaseun Dosunmu and Motunrayo Olanike Dosunmu between the months of July 2015 and April 2016 at Ibadan within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, did commit an illegal act, to wit, stealing of the aggregate sum of N1,280,554.38 (One Million, Two Hundred and Eighty Thousand, Five Hundred and Fifty Four Naira, Thirty-Eight Kobo) property of Sterling Bank Plc under the guise that the account of one Odediran Oluwafemi and An Nee was generated by Motunrayo Olanike Dosunmu and thereby committed an offense.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
In view of their plea, counsel to the EFCC, Ifeanyi Agwu, applied for a date for trial.
However, the defense counsel, J. B. Olaoye, informed the court that he had filed applications for bail on behalf of the accused persons.
Justice Akintola has adjourned till Friday, February 21, 2020, for hearing of the bail applications.
The judge ordered that they be remanded in the Agodi, Ibadan custody of the Nigerian Correctional Service, NCS, pending the adjourned date.
Ibadan: EFCC Foils Man’s Attempt To Smuggle In Hard Drug For Detained Son
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arrested a 60-year-old fish-farmer, Muyiwa Otuyalo, for attempting to smuggle in substance believed to be hard drug for his son, Damilola Otuyalo, who is currently in the custody of the commission’s Ibadan zonal office.
The older Otuyalo was at the premises of the EFCC in Ibadan on Monday, February 17, 2020 supposedly to visit his son. But while discussing with the son, an officer noticed that he brought out a sachet of tablets and handed same to him. The officer subsequently raise alarm which led to the confiscation of the drug.
When the in-house nurse was called upon for assessment of the content, it was revealed that the said item was Rohypnol, a tranquilizer used under strict prescription for treatment of severe insomnia and assist in anesthesia.
The drug is said to possess high sedative effect and is rarely used except when prescribed by licensed medical officers.
The younger Otuyalo was recently arrested after a criminal case of money laundering detected in the United Kingdom was reported against him. The case which involved £45,000 was a fragment of a wider one involving about £500,000 for which he has been declared wanted by the London’s Metropolitan Police. He has been on the wanted list of the International Police, Interpol, before the petition was filed at the EFCC, Ibadan zonal office.
Officers of the Nigerian Interpol were already in contact with the commission in respect of the said case before the suspect’s father attempted to smuggle in the hard drug for him.
Further investigations are ongoing, even as the commission intends to hand him over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, for possible prosecution of the suspected narcotic case.
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