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80 Nigerians charged in US over romance scam targeting elderly women

Eighty men were on Thursday charged in California over a multi-million-dollar con scheme targeting women and businesses worldwide.

US prosecutors charged them in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million (Sh600 million) from businesses and vulnerable elderly women.

Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other countries.

US Federal prosecutors said the 80 suspects, most of them Nigerians, are facing charges of stealing over Sh4.6 billion ($46 million) through various schemes.

One of the schemes allegedly involved impersonating email accounts belonging to various companies in order to send bogus requests for money.

The other was “romance scams”, where fraudsters reportedly logged on to dating sites to woo other users, especially elderly women, and ask them for monetary gifts or to complete transactions on their behalf.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

According to CNN, law enforcement officers on Thursday arrested 14 people in the United States; 11 of them from South Carolina.

Two Nigerian nationals; Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe are part of those arrested in the US.

The two were named as co-conspirators working with others in the US and in Nigeria to obtain money from victims and then transfer it abroad.

In a press briefing, US Attorney in Los Angeles Nick Hanna said the fraudsters laundered the money after receiving it from their victims.

Premium Times of Nigeria published a list of the 77 suspected Nigerian fraudsters revealing that most of them reside in Nigeria and coordinated receipt of the funds.

According to the Associated Press, Federal authorities cited the case of a Japanese woman, known only as “F.K.” when they announced the indictment of the 80 suspects.

“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”

All suspects will face various charges including conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft.