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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2011 Press Release Index
    Release No. 11-029

    March 7, 2011

    TEN DEFENDANTS INDICTED IN ‘NIGERIAN 419 SCAM’ THAT FALSELY PROMISED INHERITANCE MONEY TO VICTIMS

    Three Defendants in $1.5 Million Scheme Arraigned this Morning

    LOS ANGELES – Ten defendants have been indicted on federal charges of running an “advance fee” scheme that targeted victims in the United States with promises of millions of dollars in inheritances – but only if they paid money up front to facilitate the transfer of the promised bequests.

    Three of the defendants allegedly involved in the scheme that took in more than $1.5 million from victims around the United States were arraigned this morning in United States District Court, where they pleaded not guilty and were ordered to stand trial later this year.

    The lead defendant in the case – Claudio Uche Dibe, 25, of Gardena – was extradited from Canada on February 4. Dibe, a Nigerian national, fled to Canada in 2009 after learning of the investigation. After being returned to the United States, Dibe pleaded not guilty last month and was ordered held without bond.

    Dibe allegedly orchestrated the domestic part of the scheme, which sent spam emails to thousands of potential victims. The senders of the emails falsely claimed to have control of millions of dollars in inheritance money in Nigeria, and they falsely told victims they would receive inheritance money if the victims paid a variety of advance fees for “taxes” or “documentation,” according to court documents. Dibe and his associates allegedly claimed to be attorneys, bankers, diplomats or other government officials, all of which was designed to convince victims they were dealing with legitimate professionals.

    The indictment alleges that Dibe and his associates lured victims by initially demanding relatively small amounts of money. Once the victims paid the modest amounts, they were asked to wire increasingly larger amounts – as much as $35,000, according to the court documents.

    This Nigerian 419 scam – which references the section of the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud – allegedly bilked at least two dozen victims, most of whom were elderly, who collectively lost approximately $1.5 million.

    Dibe and two others were indicted by a federal grand jury in 2009. His two co-defendants in that indictment – Bright Amesi, 25, of Gardena, and Briceson Loving, 25, of Lawndale – were among the three arraigned this morning.

    The third defendant arraigned this morning in federal court was Erika Fletcher, 24, of Inglewood.

    Fletcher, along with Amesi and Loving, were named in an 11-count indictment returned last month by a grand jury. That indictment, which charges a total of nine defendants, includes an email allegedly sent by one of the fraudsters in which he complains that one of the victims “is insisting that he does not have more money, though I believe he will be able to come up with money.... I believe that…he will pay big money, which is what we are all after.”

    The investigation into the 419 scam was initiated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), after one of the fraudsters allegedly impersonated an IRS agent to convince a victim to pay fictitious taxes.

    The 10 defendants who have been charged in two indictments resulting from this investigation are:

    Dibe, who is charged with 15 counts of wire fraud;

    Amesi, who is charged with 15 counts of wire fraud in one indictment and is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the 2011 indictment;

    Loving, who is charged with 15 counts of wire fraud and is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in the 2011 indictment;

    Ezenwa “Larry” Ihenachor, 28, of Gardena, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud;

    Erika Fletcher, 24, of Inglewood, who pleaded not guilty this morning, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud;

    Devon London, 22, of Los Angeles, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud;

    Ellis Allen, 26, of Los Angeles, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud;

    Wynterrose Rogers, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud;

    Lanisha Andrews, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud; and

    Veronica Littlejohn, 43, of Gardena, who is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 10 counts of wire fraud.

    Seven of the defendants have now been arraigned and have pleaded not guilty. Allen, Rogers and Andrews are scheduled to be arraigned on March 14.

    The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and each count of wire fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

    An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.

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    Release No. 11-029
    Return to the 2011 Press Release Index