International Round-up Has Fifteen Arrested On Mississippi Federal Fraud Charges
Gulfport, Miss – Fifteen individuals were arrested today in South Africa, Canada, California, Wisconsin, and Indiana, pursuant to an eight-count federal indictment filed in the Southern District of Mississippi, announced U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis and Raymond Parmer, Jr., Special Agent in Charge of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New Orleans. Another individual was arrested today in New York on a related Southern District of Mississippi complaint. Both the indictment and complaint were unsealed today.
The indictment alleges a West African transnational organized crime enterprise involved in numerous complex financial fraud schemes over the internet. This mass marketing fraud includes romance scams, re-shipping scams, fraudulent check scams and work-at-home scams, along with bank, financial and credit card account take-overs.
The Department of Justice Organized Crime Gang Section has filed a related indictment against three individuals in Charleston, South Carolina, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has a related complaint in Atlanta against two additional defendants.
The investigation was initiated in October, 2011, by HSI agents in Gulfport after U.S. law enforcement officers were contacted by a female victim in Mississippi who was the victim of a sweetheart scam. The victim received a package in the mail requesting that she reship the merchandise to an address in Pretoria, South Africa. The investigation later revealed that the merchandise was purchased using stolen personal identity information and fraudulent credit card information of persons in the United States. Investigators have identified hundreds of victims of this scam in the United States, resulting in the loss of millions of U.S. dollars.
Today’s arrests were the result of an investigation led by the HSI Gulfport office in partnership with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, South African Police Service, Toronto Police, HSI Cyber Crimes Center, Treasury Executive Office of Asset Forfeiture, HSI Ontario, HSI Charleston, Interpol South Africa, HSI Pretoria and HSI Atlanta.
The Department of Justice Office of International Affairs assisted in the provisional arrests of ten defendants in Pretoria, South Africa. Another defendant was arrested in Toronto, Canada, and the remaining defendants were arrested in the United States.
“Financial fraud is a danger to all Americans and a threat to everyone,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Davis. “This round-up is continuing and powerful evidence of our commitment in federal law enforcement to aggressively identify, investigate and prosecute those who, through violation of federal criminal laws, pose a threat to the financial security of our citizens, communities and financial institutions. It is also evidence of the cooperation and partnership that exists between federal law enforcement and their international partners. Our special thanks go out to the various federal and international officers who not only assisted in the arrests of these individuals, but contributed significantly to the investigation that led us to this prosecution.”
“Financial crimes that threaten the health of our national economy and criminals who attempt to cheat law-abiding citizens out of their hard-earned money will continue to be a major investigative priority for HSI,” said Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr. “This case illustrates HSI's practice of leveraging to the fullest extent possible domestic and international law enforcement partnerships in pursuit of justice.” Parmer oversees a five-state area of operations to include Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee.
“Postal Inspectors have relentlessly pursued operators of illegal lotteries for more than 140 years, so these arrests are not the first and certainly won't be the last in our efforts to protect the public from these scams," said Inspector in Charge Robert Wemyss. Wemyss oversees a four-state area of operations to include Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas.
The case in Mississippi will be prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Annette Williams and Scott Gilbert, and will be scheduled for trial after extradition of the defendants to Mississippi.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, an indictment is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud from a person or an organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of storm victims, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud toll free at:
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