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.
How I killed my mother-in-law, two others – suspect narrates
Omorogbe Edoghogho Happy who killed his mother-in-law, a lady and an eight-month-old baby in Iguadolor community, Ovia North East local government area of Edo State has confessed to the police that he killed them because he could no longer bear the insult meted on him.
The suspect said since he could no longer contain the continuous harassment and beating been inflicted on him by hired thugs of deceased, he took the laws into his hands.
Narrating the ordeal, the 44-year-old Edoghogho said his mother-in-law, now late, was always attacking him with thugs at different occasions, inflicting various degrees of injuries on him owing to the fact that he was always having issues with his wife.
According to him, “She always attacks me with thugs, not ones, not twice so I made up my mind that, I was going to pay her back in a horrible way that will be two much for her to bear.
“What I did was to take a cutlass since I’m a farmer. I went to their house around 8 pm. When I got there, I pushed the entrance door with my leg, then I proceeded to where the woman was sleeping. After killing her, I headed to where the other lady was (the younger sister to my wife) I killed her as well but I never knew it will affect the eight month-old-baby.
“It affected the three of them, frankly speaking, I never knew it affected the newborn baby, ‘but the woman too beat me one day. They beat me, bound my hands and put me inside a car from Ogheghe junction to Iguadolor. I almost died but God saved me,” he confessed.
Port Harcourt hotel serial killer finally arrested
The notorious serial killer linked to the deaths of over 15 girls in some hotels in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, has been arrested after a CCTV footage of his last operation went viral.
The suspect was arrested on Thursday September 19, by officers attached to the Rivers State Police Command. The 26-year old former militant from Buguma LGA of Rivers State, who is also a member of the Degbam cult group was arrested along East-West Road enroute to Uyo from Port Harcourt.
The Nigerian police in its tweet confirming his arrest, said an investigation to uncover motives of the killings is ongoing. Read the tweets below;
Lagos state police to arraign singer, Dammy Krane in court on Monday September 16th
Dammy Krane will on Monday September 16th, be arraigned before the Igbosere High Court in Lagos by the Lagos state police command.
Punch reports that DammyKrane will be arraigned on a three-count charge bothering on threat to life, defamation and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.
According to a petition filed at the command’s headquarters, the singer was accused of threatening the lives of staff members of betting company Merrybet Gold Limited on July 25th 2019 and also released a song in which he accused the firm of breach of contract. The act is said to be in contravention of sections 301, 412 and 168 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.
He was also accused of conspiring with others at large of conducting himself in a manner likely to cause breach of peace and threat to life in contravention of Section 412 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015. Dammy Krane was also said to have threatened public peace when he posted an audio and video message on radio in contravention of Section 168(d) of the state’s criminal law.
The charges read in part,
“That you, Johnson Hunga Oyindamola and others at large on the 29th day of July, 2019 at Cool FM in the Lagos magisterial district did conspire amongst yourselves to commit felony to wit: conduct likely to cause breach of peace and threat to life and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 412 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.”
Another charge reads
“That you, Johnson Hunga Oyindamola and others at large on the same date, time and place in the aforementioned magisterial district did threaten the life of the staff of Merrybet Gold Limited and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 301 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria, 2015.”
Section 301 of the state’s criminal law states that any person who, with intent to extort or gain anything from any person; accuses or threatens to accuse any person of committing any felony or misdemeanour, or of offering or making any solicitation or threat to any person as an inducement to commit or permit the commission of any felony or misdemeanour is guilty of a felony, and liable to imprisonment for three years.
It was learnt that the musician got into trouble after Merrybet Gold Limited wrote a petition to the police accusing the musician of threats and cyberbullying.
In a petition titled, ‘Petition against Oyindamola Johnson Emmanuel aka Dammy Krane for false and libellous statement against Merrybet Gold Limited and signed by its lawyer, Nwabueze Anachebe, the betting firm said the musician perpetrated cyberbullying and criminal defamation.
The musician was said to have attended a game show sponsored by the betting company but lost.
However, Dammy Krane was said to have demanded some money for appearing on the show but the firm disagreed, insisting that the sum is only given to winners.
The embittered musician subsequently went on the radio where he accused the betting firm of owing him money and breaching a contractual agreement.
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