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An indictment was unsealed today charging six Nigerian nationals – three residing in the United Kingdom and three residing in Spain – with operating a large transnational fraud scheme. One of the charged defendants made his initial appearance today, after being extradited from the United Kingdom.
Ezennia Peter Neboh, 48, Kennedy Ikponmwosa, 51, and Prince Amos Okey Ezemma, 49, of Madrid, Spain; and Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham, 44, Emmanuel Samuel, 39, and Jerry Chucks Ozor, 43, of London, face federal charges in Miami. Neboh, Ikponmwosa, Abraham, Samuel, and Ozor were arrested in April 2022 by authorities in Madrid and London, based on an indictment filed in the Southern District of Florida, and have remained incarcerated since then. Samuel made his initial appearance in Miami today. Okey Ezemma remains at large.
According to court documents, the defendants are charged with operating an inheritance fraud scheme. Over the course of more than five years, they allegedly sent personalized letters to elderly consumers in the U.S., falsely claiming that the sender was a representative of a bank in Spain and that the recipient was entitled to receive a multimillion-dollar inheritance left for the recipient by a family member who purportedly had died years before in Spain. Victims were told that, before they could receive their purported inheritance, they were required to send money for delivery fees, taxes, and payments to avoid questioning from government authorities. Victims sent money to the defendants through a complex web of U.S.-based former victims, whom the defendants convinced to serve as money mules. According to the indictment, victims who sent money never received their purported inheritance funds.
“Schemes that prey on the elderly are particularly insidious,” said Principal Deputy Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud U.S. consumers, wherever they are located. I thank the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom for their tireless efforts in assisting U.S. authorities to find and arrest these individuals so that they may face charges here in the United States.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long tradition of protecting citizens from these types of schemes and bringing those responsible to justice,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas for the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Miami Division. “The indictment unsealed today is a testament of the dedicated partnership between the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, to protect our citizens from these scams”.
“The successful extradition of the defendant is the result of a dynamic and coordinated investigative effort by HSI, our law enforcement and judicial partners,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown for HSI Arizona Field Office. “Crimes aimed at the elderly have devastating financial effects. HSI will continue to aggressively investigate greedy swindlers who prey on the vulnerable for profit.”
The defendants are all charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as mail fraud and wire fraud. Emmanuel Samuel made his initial court appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Neboh, Ikponmwosa, Abraham, and Ozor remain in extradition proceedings. If convicted, Samuel faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Consumer Protection Branch, USPIS, and HSI are investigating the case.
Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorneys Josh Rothman and Brianna Gardner of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Europol, the Portuguese Judicial Police, the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, and the Spanish National Police, all provided critical assistance.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is available at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud, and reporting certain financial losses sustained due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is staffed seven days a week from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
More information about the Department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at https://www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at https://www.ovc.gov.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Nigerian National Extradited from the United Kingdom to Face Fraud … – Department of Justice
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