A dual U.K.-Nigerian national who was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom was sentenced to 90 months in prison for his role in a transnational inheritance fraud scheme. With today’s sentencing, all three defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom in connection with this matter have been sentenced.
According to court documents, Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham, 44, was part of a group of fraudsters that sent personalized letters to elderly victims in the United States, falsely claiming that the sender was a representative of a bank in Spain and that the recipient was entitled to receive a multi-million-dollar inheritance left for the recipient by a family member who had died years before in Portugal. Victims were told that before they could receive their purported inheritance, they were required to send money for delivery fees and taxes and were instructed to make other payments. Victims sent money to the defendants through a complex web of U.S.-based former victims. Abraham and his co-conspirators also convinced former victims to receive money from new victims and then forward the fraud proceeds to others.
The other two defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom also received prison sentences. On June 21, the Honorable Kathleen M. Williams sentenced Emmanuel Samuel to 82 months in prison, and on July 25, Judge Williams sentenced Jerry Chucks Ozor to 87 months in prison for their roles in the scheme. Two other co-defendants, who were extradited to the United States from Spain, have also pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in October and November.
“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch will continue to pursue, prosecute, and bring to justice transnational criminals responsible for defrauding U.S. consumers, wherever they are located,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We thank our colleagues at the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service for assisting with the successful investigation and extradition of these defendants and the United Kingdom’s National Trading Standards Scams Team for its help in identifying this and other transnational fraud schemes.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has a long tradition of protecting American citizens from these types of schemes and bringing those responsible to justice,” said Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas of the USPIS Miami Division. “This result is a testament to the dedicated partnership between the Justice Department's Consumer Protection Branch, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and the USPIS, to protect our citizens from these scams.”
“International criminal organizations using schemes that target and steal from the elderly will be held responsible for their despicable actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown of HSI Arizona. “This case demonstrates HSI’s commitment, with our partner law enforcement agencies domestically and abroad, to prove wrong those who believe they are beyond the reach of the law. I thank all the law enforcement agencies that dedicated countless hours in making this investigation a significant success.”
The Consumer Protection Branch, USPIS, and HSI are investigating the case.
Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorneys Josh Rothman and Brianna Gardner of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Europol, and authorities from the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal all provided critical assistance.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline: 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311). This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET. English, Spanish, and other languages are available.
More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.