A federal jury in the Western District of North Carolina convicted Ugochukwu Enwerem yesterday on charges stemming from an advance-fee fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Deputy Chief Postal Inspector Zane M. Hill.
Following six days of trial and four hours of deliberation, Enwerem was found guilty on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and 14 counts of wire fraud charged in a July 2007 indictment stemming from an "advance-fee" scheme. Forfeiture of more than $9.5 million has also been ordered. In September 2009, co-defendant Kent Oserumen Okojie pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud. He is awaiting sentencing. Okojie and Enwerem, Nigerian citizens who resided in the Netherlands, originally were charged in a June 2007 complaint and were subsequently extradited to the United States from The Netherlands, where they had been in custody on Dutch charges.
According to evidence presented at trial, between at least September 2002 and April 2007, Okojie, Enwerem and their co-conspirators solicited individuals by sending spam e-mails informing potential victims that they had either won a foreign lottery or inherited a large sum of money from a long lost relative. When individuals responded to the e-mails, the defendants or their co-conspirators, posing as lawyers, bankers and European government officials, solicited fees from victims ostensibly to pay for things such as "anti-terrorism certificates," "EU bank clearances" and legal fees in order to secure their lottery winnings or inheritance. Trial evidence established that Okojie and Enwerem instructed U.S. and international victims to wire funds through Western Union and other money transfer services to the defendants and their designees in The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. The Western Union servers are located in the Western District of North Carolina. According to trial testimony, at least 18 U.S. and international victims lost more than $9.5 million as a result of this scheme.
At sentencing, Enwerem faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy count and 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of the 14 wire fraud counts.
The case was investigated by a team of U.S. Postal Inspectors working with the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and the Amsterdam Politie. The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Laura Perkins and Nicole H. Sprinzen of the Fraud Section. Significant assistance was provided by the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.