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‘Internet fraud’: Eight Nigerians to face charges in US, risk 40 years imprisonment

‘Internet fraud’: Eight Nigerians to face charges in US, risk 40 years imprisonment
October 21
19:49 2021

Eight Nigerians, including seven persons accused of being leaders of the “Cape Town Zone of the Neo Black Movement of Africa also known as ‘Black Axe’”, will face charges in the US over alleged internet fraud.

According to a statement by the US department of justice, Rachael A. Honig, acting US attorney, announced the development on Wednesday.

Seven of the suspects are identified as Perry Osagiede, Enorense Izevbigie, Franklyn Edosa Osagiede, Osariemen Eric Clement, Collins Owhofasa Otughwor, Musa Mudashiru, and Toritseju Gabriel Otubu.

The eighth suspect, identified as Egbe Tony Iyamu, is said to be at large.

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The eight persons were allegedly involved in money laundering dating as far back as 2011.

The development comes hours after the seven suspects were arrested in a joint operation involving the South African police service.

“From at least 2011 through 2021, the Black Axe defendants and other conspirators worked together from Cape Town to engage in widespread internet fraud involving romance scams and advance fee schemes. Many of these fraudulent narratives involved claims that an individual was traveling to South Africa for work and needed money or other items of value following a series of unfortunate and unforeseen events, often involving a construction site or problems with a crane. The conspirators used social media websites, online dating websites, and voice over internet protocol phone numbers to find and talk with victims in the United States, while using a number of aliases,” the statement reads.

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“The conspirators’ romance scam victims believed they were in romantic relationships with the person using the alias and, when requested, the victims sent money and items of value overseas, including to South Africa. Sometimes, when victims expressed hesitation in sending money, the conspirators used manipulative tactics to coerce the payments, including by threatening to distribute personally sensitive photographs of the victim.

“The conspirators used the bank accounts of victims and individuals with U.S.-based financial accounts to transfer the money to South Africa. On certain occasions, the conspirators convinced victims to open financial accounts in the United States that the conspirators would then be permitted to use themselves. In addition to laundering money derived from romance scams and advance fee schemes, the conspirators also worked to launder money from business email compromise schemes. In addition to their aliases, the conspirators used business entities to conceal and disguise the illegal nature of the funds.

“Otubu also engaged in romance scams and used the victims of those scams to obtain money and to launder the proceeds of business email compromises back to South Africa. Otubu conspired with an individual identified in the criminal complaint as Co-conspirator 1, who was a founding member and leader of the Cape Town Zone of Black Axe.

“The wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greatest. The aggravated identity theft charges carry a mandatory term of two years in prison, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed on a defendant.

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According to separate documents on the indictment of the suspects, Otubu will face charges on allegations of over $6m fraud, while the other suspects are being accused of illegally receiving over $65,000.

The seven defendants arrested in South Africa are currently awaiting extradition to the US.

The US also said anyone who believes they may have been affected in the alleged fraud should “visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/blackaxe for information about the case, including a questionnaire for victims to fill out and submit”.

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