Three Defendants Sentenced in "Advance-Fee" Fraud Scheme That Cost Victims More Than $1.2 Million
Three defendants were sentenced to prison today after pleading guilty in January 2008 to federal charges of running an “advance-fee” scheme that targeted U.S. victims with promises of millions of dollars, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Benton J. Campbell of the Eastern District of New York announced. The defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Dora L. Irizarry at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Nnamdi Chizuba Anisiobi (a/k/a Yellowman, Abdul Rahman, Michael Anderson, Edmund Walter, Nancy White, Jiggaman and Namo), 31, citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to 87 months in prison.
Anthony Friday Ehis (a/k/a John J. Smith, Toni N. Amokwu and Mr. T), 34, citizen of France, was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
Kesandu Egwuonwu (a/k/a KeKe, Joey Martin Maxwell, David Mark and Helmut Schkinger), 35, citizen of Nigeria, was sentenced to 57 months in prison.
All three defendants each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, eight counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud.
The investigation was initiated by Dutch law enforcement authorities. After identifying victims in the United States, Dutch authorities notified the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which opened its own investigation, resulting in the charges against the defendants. Three of the defendants were arrested in Amsterdam on Feb. 21, 2006, and were subsequently extradited to the United States.
According to the indictment and an earlier filed complaint, the defendants sent “spam” e-mails to thousands of potential victims, in which they falsely claimed to control millions of dollars located abroad. Attempting to conceal their identities, the defendants admitted they used a variety of aliases, phone numbers and e-mail addresses. In one scenario, the defendants sent e-mails purporting to be from an individual suffering from terminal throat cancer who needed assistance distributing approximately $55 million to charity. In exchange for a victim’s help, the defendants offered to give a 20 percent commission to the victim or a charity of his or her choice. Subsequently, as part of the ruse, the defendants sent a variety of fraudulent documents, including a “Letter of Authority” or a “Certificate of Deposit,” making it appear that the promised funds were available, and pictures of an individual claiming to suffer from throat cancer. The evidence to the court established that Anisiobi telephoned victims, disguising his voice to give the impression that he was suffering from throat cancer.
After obtaining their victims’ trust, the defendants asked them to wire-transfer payment for a variety of advance fees, ostensibly for legal representation, taxes and additional documentation. In return, the victims received nothing. In a variation of the scheme, if the victims said they could not afford to pay the advance fees, the defendants admitted they would send them counterfeit checks, supposedly from a cancer patient, to cover those fees. Many victims deposited the checks and then drew on them to wire-transfer the advance fees. Subsequently, when the checks did not clear their accounts, the victims suffered substantial losses.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and prosecuted by Fraud Section Trial Attorneys Mary (Kit) Dimke, Amanda Riedel, and Nicola Mrazek, Paralegal Pamela Johnson, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Y. Hill.