U.S. authorities on Thursday unsealed a 252-count grand jury indictment charging 80 people, most of them Nigerians, in a major conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through fraud schemes and launder the money through a Los Angeles-based network.
“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.
The conspiracy included frauds involving business email (BEC scams), romance scams and schemes targeting elderly people.
Victims were targeted in the U.S. and around the world, and some lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Fourteen defendants were arrested, mostly in the Los Angeles region. FBI agents could be seen processing suspects in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot.
Six other defendants are believed to be fugitives in the U.S. and the others are abroad, mostly in Nigeria. Authorities said they hope to extradite them.
The investigation began in 2016 with one victim and a single bank account, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office.
Among the people arrested are: Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens. Others are: Jerry Ikogho, 50, of Carson (who was taken into custody on Sunday), and Adegoke Moses Ogungbe, 34, of Fontana, who were indicted as illicit money exchangers for the conspiracy.
In addition: 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.
According to the FBI statement: 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.
Early in August, the FBI similarly arrested a Nigerian FORBES celebrated billionaire, who was accused of milking a branch of US owned Caterpillar subsidiary in the UK of $11.5m, among other atrocious frauds committed.
Read the Full Press statement by FBI today:
Massive International Fraud and Money Laundering Conspiracy Detailed in Federal Grand Jury Indictment that Charges 80 Defendants
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.
More Incriminating Evidences Presented Against Tonto Dikeh + Why She Is Still In Dubai Prison
Latest information about the embattled Nollywood star actress, Tonto Dikeh, who was reportedly arrested by the police in Dubai, revealed that she had not been deported to Nigeria, but that she was still in Dubai Prison.
The stylish mother of one was said to still being held in Dubai detention cell for further investigation.
While little has been officially heard from Tonto on social media except for some few postings from her best friend, Idris Okuneye aka Bobrisky, it was gathered that Tonto and Bobrisky were trying very hard to cover up their tracks.
Tonto was reportedly arrested recently, when she attended an event in Dubai.
She was said to have been denied entry by security personnel and she allegedly called them untoward names.
She was said to have spent the night in prison.
Tonto, who was in Dubai to attend the One Africa Music Fest and Bamteddy wedding, could no longer attend these events since she was in detention.
“Yes, she hasn’t been released but still in detention,” a source close to the Nollywood actress revealed.
But Tonto was said to have released a video debunking any news of detention or deportation through Bobrisky.
Sources explained further that:
“First, Tonto is not the type to use that kind of video to debunk allegations of detention and deportation.
She would have used a more beautiful background wearing gorgeous clothes and displaying affluence. That was a damage control video she shared through Bobrisky. Tonto was looking like a tart! She wasn’t wearing make-up and looking like a prisoner in one small room! Anyways, in the video, there was no address about or her arrest. The Tonto we knew would have tore whoever wrote that story into shreds.
“Moreover, the attempts by Bobrisky to prove that Tonto Dikeh is still in Dubai and vacationing are not adding up.
Imagine the sudden disappearance of Tonto’s phone! Tonto’s phone lost its password and she opened another new page @king_wigocharity, on Instagram! Sharing a video to that effect, Tonto, who was not gorgeously dressed like her usual old self wears a funny make-up and explains what went wrong with her old IG account.
Who is fooling who? She said she is still in Dubai but her password is still in Africa! In this IT age? The video looks so stupid!
Meanwhile, before the new page, she had posted many photos from Dubai on the old page @tontolet which has over 5million followers.
It was on her old page she posted her ‘fake gift’ from Timi Frank. She even bought a new phone to run the new page! As a matter of fact, she removed the nylon seal from the cover of the phone!”
Wondering what went wrong with Tonto and Dubai security personnel?
“After her arrest and her hotel room was searched, they found out that she came to Dubai with hard drugs which she must have been taking,” sources alleged.
The worry is now her little boy, King Andre, who is said to be in the care of a nanny in Abuja.
Already, Bobrisky is taking the pains to upload on the new page that has been created.
We were informed that there was no hope that the actress would be released soon.
Revealed: How Jailed Fraudster Masterminded $1 Million Internet Scam From Prison
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has revealed how a jailed fraudster, Hope Olusegun Aroke masterminded an internet scam worth $1 million from prison.
Aroke is a convicted internet scammer, who is currently serving 24 years jail term.
The Lagos Zonal office of the commission revealed recently that it discovered that Aroke, a convicted internet fraudster currently serving a 24 years jail term was still in active communication with other high valued targets.
The EFCC said in a statement that the high valued targets were currently being investigated by the Commission for various offences relating to computer fraud and money laundering.
“Investigation revealed that he masterminded the commission of internet scam worth over $1,000,000 (One million Dollars) whilst serving his jail term,” the EFCC said.
Aroke was alleged to have pulled the heist right from prison using a network of accomplices, some of them targets of fraud and money laundering investigation.
The lid on his latest fraud exploits from the bowels of the Maximum Correctional Centre was reportedly blown following intelligence received by the EFCC.
What surprised the EFCC was how it was possible for the convict to continue to ply his ignoble trade of Internet fraud from prison.
Preliminary investigation revealed that the convict, against established standard practice, had access to internet and mobile phone in the Correctional Centre where he is supposed to be serving his jail term.
It was more surprising that Aroke got himself admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital, Falomo, Lagos for an undisclosed ailment and from the hospital, he would move out to lodge in hotels, meet with his wife and two children and attend other social functions.
The circumstance of his admission into the hospital and those who aided his movement from the hospital to hotels and other social engagements, are already being investigated by the EFCC.
Investigations revealed that Aroke used a fictitious name, Akinwunmi Sorinmade, to open two accounts with First Bank Plc and Guaranty Trust Bank Plc.
He also reportedly bought a property at Fountain Spring Estate, Lekki Lagos in 2018 for N22 million and a Lexus RX 350 2018 model registered in his wife’s name, Maria Jennifer Aroke.
The convict was also said to be in possession of his wife’s bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds.
Further investigation revealed that, while his trial was ongoing in 2015, Aroke bought a four bedroom duplex at Plot 12, Deji Fadoju Street, Megamounds Estate Lekki County Homes , Lekki for N48 million.
Aroke was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate fraudsters arrested by the EFCC in the closing weeks of 2012 at the 1004 Housing Estate, Victoria Island, Lagos following a tip-off.
The indigene of Okene, Kogi State had claimed to be a student of Computer Science at the Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, Malaysia. But the Commission’s investigation fingered him as the arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud scheme that traverse two continents.
When Aroke was arrested, a search conducted by EFCC operatives on his apartment led to the recovery of several items such as laptops, iPad, traveling documents, cheque books, flash drives, internet modem, and three exotic cars – a Mercedes Benz Jeep, One 4Matic Mercedes Benz Car and a Range Rover Sport SUV.
He was eventually convicted by Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court on two counts of obtaining money by false pretence, cheque cloning, wire transfer and forgery.
He was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment on each of the two counts.
Dad demands sex before paying my school fees, impregnated me thrice — Pastor’s daughter
A 20-year-old lady, Fortune, has narrated her ordeal in the hands of her father, a pastor in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
Fortune said her father, the Presiding Pastor of Mount Zion Light House Full Gospel Church, Obio Imo Lane, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Apostle Williams Okon Bassey, started having sex with her when she was 13 years old.
She said without giving in to his demand for sex, he would not pay her school fees. Bassey, whom Fortune said had impregnated her thrice, has been arrested by operatives of the Akwa Ibom State Police Command.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Odiko MacDon, said: “The victim stated that her father started having sexual intercourse with her at the age of 13.
“The continuous sexual assault led her to become pregnant on three different occasions and the pregnancies were aborted by her mother.
“She further revealed that the first time her father defiled her was in the church vestry.
“He threatened to place a curse on her if she dares tell anyone about his escapades.
“He also demands sex before paying her school fees or catering for her needs.” MacDon also said October 31, one Anwanga Essien Udo of 7, Itiam Street, Uyo, aged 33, a Pastor with Restoration Bible Church, was arrested for having unlawful carnal knowledge of his 10-year-old step-daughter(name withheld).
He added: “When she was left alone with him, rather than be a father to her, he opted to turn her to a sex-machine.”
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