WASHINGTON - Ugochukwu Enwerem, aka Joseph Smith, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in Charlotte, N.C., to 108 months in prison for his role in an advance-fee fraud scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and Daniel S. Cortez, Deputy Chief Inspector of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
U.S. District Judge Graham C. Mullen also ordered Enwerem to serve three years of supervised release following his prison term. In addition, Enwerem was ordered to forfeit $9,453,815 and to pay restitution in the same amount, jointly and severally with co-defendant Kent Okojie.
Enwerem was found guilty in March 2010 by a federal jury in the Western District of North Carolina on one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and 14 counts of wire fraud. In September 2009, co-defendant Okojie pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and two counts of wire fraud. In November 2010, Okojie was sentenced to 72 months in prison. 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.
Evidence at trial showed that between at least Aug. 25, 2004, and April 23, 2007, Enwerem and his co‑conspirators solicited individuals in the United States, Europe and Australia by sending spam e‑mails informing potential victims that they had either won a foreign lottery, inherited a large sum of money from a long lost relative, or were eligible to recover outstanding construction contract payments. When individuals responded to the e‑mails, the defendants, 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,” “anti-money laundering certificates,” and legal fees in order to secure their purported lotto winnings, inheritance or contract payments.
According to evidence presented at trial, Enwerem and Okojie instructed U.S. victims to wire funds, using Western Union and other money transfer services, to them and their designees in The Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom. According to trial testimony, at least 18 U.S. and international victims were defrauded of more than $9.5 million during the period when Enwerem was a member of the conspiracy.
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. Assistance regarding forfeiture and restitution was provided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Bain-Creed with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of North Carolina.