The United States Department of Justice has indicted a total of 80 people, many of them Nigerians, in connection to massive fraud and money laundering.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California, disclosed on Thursday, August 22, 2019, that 14 suspects were arrested in raids carried out across the U.S.
Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and one was arrested earlier this week. Many co-conspirators, Mrozek said, are still in Nigeria, with others also at large in the U.S. and other countries.
In a 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Thursday, the defendants are accused of 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.
31-year-old Valentine Iro and 38-year-old Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, both Nigerians, were used by the network for bank and money-service accounts that could receive funds fraudulently obtained from victims. Both defendants are accused of being 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.
“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,” Mrozek said. The alleged fraudsters targeted victims in the US and across the globe, including individuals, small and large businesses, and law firms. Elderly victims were also reported to have lost thousands of dollars to their fraud schemes. “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,” United States Attorney, Nick Hanna, said.