Four Charged in Multi-million Dollar Internet Fraud Conspiracy
A criminal complaint was unsealed this morning in federal court in Brooklyn charging four defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The defendants allegedly engaged in a scheme to defraud individuals across the United States and around the world through mass emails that falsely advised recipients that they had won a lottery or inherited a fortune, and induced the recipients to wire money to the defendants’ accounts purportedly to cover taxes and other fees. As a result, the individual victims and their banks lost more than $2 million.1 The defendants arrested today have initial appearances scheduled later this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann, at the U.S. Courthouse, 225 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn, New York.
The charges were announced by Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
According to the complaint, the defendants obtained mass email distribution lists and sent emails to individuals advising them that they had won a lottery, such as the “$5 million Princess Diana Lottery,” or had inherited millions of dollars from a distant relative. The defendants then allegedly induced victims to open bank accounts and provide detailed personal and bank account information – which the defendants frequently used to steal victims’ identities – and persuaded victims to wire money ostensibly to pay taxes and fees to a designated bank account, usually in the name of an individual whose identity they had stolen or to a foreign bank account. To convince victims that the taxes and fees were legitimate, the defendants’ emails often included letters and notices on phony Internal Revenue Service letterhead and purportedly signed by IRS agents.
“Advance fee schemes have been around for decades, and Internet users have paid the price in stolen identities and cash,” stated United States Attorney Lynch. “It bears repeating that when a pitch seems too good to be true, it usually is just that. The defendants will now be held to account for their alleged criminal conduct.”
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration George stated, “Those who perpetrate crimes that prey upon innocent taxpayers and subvert the system of tax administration must be bought to justice and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
If convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 30 years of imprisonment.
The government’s case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Winston M. Paes.
JOSEPH IFEANYI ANI
GODSPOWER CHIDIADI EGBUFOR
PATRICK UGOCHUKWU OHAZURIKE
KELVIN OBI DUNCAN
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