A Nigerian citizen living in Canada was extradited to the United States on Thursday to face federal charges after allegedly taking part in a scheme to defraud thousands of victims of hundreds of millions of dollars.
American investigators allege the 50-year-old man was part of a conspiracy to run a fraudulent "sweepstakes" scheme designed to steal a total of $300 million U.S. The alleged fraudsters were able to defraud their victims of a total of $900,000 U.S.
A federal grand jury indictment, returned in September 2018, charges the man with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Each count upon conviction calls for up to 20 years in federal prison.
According to the indictment, the defendants carried out their sweepstakes scheme from 2012 to 2016.
Elderly victims targeted
The man allegedly purchased lists of elderly potential victims and their addresses from an email service provider. He and other conspirators based in the Toronto area, sent packages containing fraudulent sweepstakes information to conspirators living in the U.S.
The packages contained thousands of mailers, which the U.S.-based conspirators sent to victims notifying them that they had won a sweepstakes contest.
Each mailer included a fraudulent cheque issued in the name of the victim, usually in the amount of $8,000, and a pre-addressed envelope.
Victims were instructed to deposit the cheque into their bank account, immediately withdraw between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars in cash or money orders and send the money to a "sweepstakes representative" to facilitate the victim collecting his or her prize.
By the time the victim was notified by the bank that the deposited cheque was fraudulent, the cash or money order had been sent by the victim and received by alleged conspirators.
The man, who remains in federal custody pending his initial appearance in Austin, Texas Friday afternoon, is one of eight defendants charged in connection with this scheme.
Despite the fact that the man was living in Canada, U.S. special agents were able to track him down — something they attribute to their strong relationships with international law enforcement agencies.
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