Showing posts with label 419. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 419. Show all posts

Monday, June 10, 2024

How sextortion scammers in Nigeria targeted my son

Sextortion is the fastest-growing scam affecting teenagers globally and has been linked to more than 27 suicides in the US alone. Many of the scammers appear to be from Nigeria - where authorities are under pressure to do more.

It has been two years since Jenn Buta’s son Jordan killed himself after being targeted by scammers who lured him into sending them explicit images of himself, and then tried to blackmail him.

She still can’t bring herself to change anything about his bedroom.

The 17-year-old’s basketball jerseys, clothes, posters and bedsheets are just how he left them.

The curtains are closed, and the door is shut to keep memories of him that only a parent would understand.

“It still smells like him. That’s one of the reasons I still have the door closed. I can still smell that sweat, dirt, cologne mix in this room. I'm just not ready to part with his stuff,” she said.

Jordan was contacted by sextortion scammers on Instagram.

They pretended to be a pretty girl his age and flirted with him, sending sexual pictures to coax him into sharing explicit photos of himself.

They then blackmailed him for hundreds of pounds to stop them sharing the pictures online to his friends.

Jordan sent as much money as he could and warned the sextortionists he would kill himself if they spread the images. The criminals replied: “Good… Do that fast - or I'll make you do it.”

It was less than six hours from the time Jordan started communicating until the time he killed himself.

“There's actually a script online,” Jenn told BBC News, from her home in Michigan, in the north of the US. "And these people are just going through the script and putting that pressure on.

"And they're doing it quick, because then they can move on to the next person, because it's about volume.”

The criminals were tracked to Nigeria, arrested, and then extradited to the US.

Two brothers from Lagos - Samuel Ogoshi, 22, and Samson Ogoshi, 20 - are awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to child sexploitation charges. Another Nigerian man linked to Jordan’s death and other cases is fighting extradition.

Jordan’s tragic story has become a touch point in the fight against the growing problem of sextortion.

Jenn is a now high-profile campaigner on TikTok – using the account Jordan set up for her – to raise awareness about the dangers of sextortion to young people. Her videos have been liked more than a million times.

It’s feared that sextortion is under-reported due to its sensitive nature. But US crime figures show cases more than doubled last year, rising to 26,700, with at least 27 boys having killed themselves in the past two years.

Researchers and law enforcement agencies point to West Africa, and particularly Nigeria, as a hotspot for where attackers are based.

In April, two Nigerian men were arrested after a schoolboy from Australia killed himself. Two other men are on trial in Lagos, after the suicides of a 15-year-old boy in the US and a 14-year-old in Canada.

In January, US cyber-company Network Contagion Research Institute (NCRI) highlighted a web of Nigerian TikTok, YouTube and Scribd accounts sharing tips and scripts for sextortion. Many of the discussions and videos are in Nigerian Pidgin dialect.

It’s not the first time that Nigeria’s young tech-savvy population has embraced a new wave of cyber-crime.

The term Yahoo Boys is used to describe a portion of the population that use cyber-crime to earn a living. It comes from the early 2000s wave of Nigerian Prince scam emails which spread through the Yahoo email service.

Dr Tombari Sibe, from Digital Footprints Nigeria, says cyber-fraud such as sextortion has become normalised to young people in the country: “There's also the big problem of unemployment and of poverty.

"All these young ones who don't really have much - it's become almost like a mainstream activity where they don't really think too much about the consequences. They just see their colleagues making money.”

African human rights charity Devatop has said the current methods of handling sextortion in Nigeria have failed to effectively curb the practice. And a report from NCRI said that celebrating sextortion crimes are an established part of the internet subculture in the country.

In an exclusive interview with the BBC, the director of Nigeria’s National Cyber Crime Centre (NCCC) defended his police force’s actions, and insisted it was working hard to catch criminals and deter others from carrying out attacks.

Uche Ifeanyi Henry said his officers were “hitting criminals hard” and said it is “laughable” that anyone should accuse Nigeria of not taking sextortion crime seriously.

“We are giving criminals a very serious hit. A lot have been prosecuted and a lot have been arrested,” he said. "Many of these criminals are moving to neighbouring countries now because of our activity.”

The NCCC director pointed to the fact that the government has spent millions of pounds on a state-of-the-art cyber-crime centre, to show it was taking cyber-crime seriously, especially sextortion.

He said Nigerian teenagers are also being targeted, and he argued that the criminals were not just a Nigerian problem, with other sextortionists in south-east Asia. Tackling them would require global support, he said.

With that in mind, the director and his technical team are this week visiting the UK’s National Crime Agency, which last month issued a warning to children and schools about a rise in sextortion cases.

The visit is designed to improve collaboration on sextortion and other cyber-crime investigations. It follows similar recent meetings with Japanese police.

Meanwhile, Jenn Buta continues to campaign alongside Jordan’s father John DeMay. They regularly give advice to young people who may become victims.

Advice that Jenn and many law enforcement agencies regularly give people targeted by sextortionists includes:

. Remember you are not alone and this is not your fault

. Report the predator’s account, via the platform’s safety feature

. Block the predator from contacting you

. Save the profile or messages - they can help law enforcement identify and stop the predator

. Ask for help from a trusted adult or law enforcement before sending money or more images

. Co-operating with the predator rarely stops the blackmail and harassment - but law enforcement can

By Joe Tidy, BBC

Related story: Two arrested in Nigeria for sextortion after Australian boy's suicide

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

‘Nigerian scammer’ takes credit for bizarre Graceland auction scare

A self-described scammer based in Nigeria has taken credit for a bizarre, failed attempt to auction off Elvis’ iconic Graceland property.

Earlier this month, a mysterious company with little paper trail, Naussany Investments and Private Lending, contacted Promenade Trust, which controls the Memphis estate, claiming it owed millions for failing to repay a loan.

Riley Keough, Elvis’ granddaughter who inherited Graceland after her mother Lisa Marie Presley died last year, sued Naussany alleging its documents were falsified. She also asked a judge to block the Graceland auction. The judge granted her request, putting a pause on the sale, one day before it was set to be finalized.

On Tuesday, the apparent perpertrator of the scheme was revealed when The New York Times reported that an individual based in Nigeria with a Naussany-associated email address contacted them and took credit for it.

The individual said he and his associates typically scam the vulnerable and elderly. The Times also reported that the email was written in Luganda, a language spoken in Uganda. “We figure out how to steal,” the individual told The Times. “That’s what we do.”

Experts also told the Associated Press that scammers often target people’s assets after they’re dead. “It’s very difficult for someone to say, ‘Well, no, I didn’t take out this loan, I didn’t sign these papers,’ when they’re dead,” Mark Sunderman, a University of Memphis real estate professor, told the AP.

The Independent was unable to verify specific details about Naussany Investments and Private Lending due to a lack of public records and unreliable contact information listed online.

No representative for the company appeared at a recent hearing over Graceland, however Naussany filed court papers denying Ms Keough’s allegations and asked the judge for more time to prepare a defense in the case, the Times reports.

Nikos Passas, a Northeastern University criminology and criminal justice professor, also told the AP the scammers likely knew that successfully auctioning off Graceland was impossible.

“The chance of succeeding in what they were trying to do — that is, to get the property auctioned off and get the proceeds and then use the money — doesn’t seem to be the actual intent, unless they are incredibly stupid,” Dr Passas said. “So, the question is then, ‘What was the intent, and who was behind it?’”

By Katie Hawkinson, Independent

Related story: Two arrested in Nigeria for sextortion after Australian boy's suicide

Monday, April 8, 2024

Two arrested in Nigeria for sextortion after Australian boy's suicide

Two people have been arrested in Nigeria over an alleged sextortion attempt against an Australian schoolboy who took his own life.

Australian police say the teenage victim had traded explicit images with a person online before they began making threats and demanding money.

After a global investigation, the pair allegedly responsible were tracked down in Nigeria, where they will face court.

Police say sextortion - particularly of young people - is dramatically rising.

Details of the boy's age or where he lived in New South Wales (NSW) have not been released publicly to protect his family's privacy.

New South Wales Police described the alleged extortionists as "young males" and said they had threatened to send photos to the teenager's friends and family if he did not pay them A$500 (£260; $330).

"The messages are horrific. They're aggressive and put a lot of pressure on the boy to pay the money," the police force's cyber-crime commander, Matthew Craft, told the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH).

The boy died by suicide on the same evening, late last year.

Australian detectives worked with their counterparts in South Africa and Nigeria to trace the suspected perpetrators to a slum in Nigeria with a population of over 25 million people.

Evidence that the pair had also tried to extort other people was found on their phones, according to the SMH. They have been charged over the alleged extortion of the Australian boy, but not his death.

There have been several cases in Canada and the US in recent years of teenagers who have killed themselves after being targeted by sextortion plots.

Det Supt Craft said his team had seen a "huge spike" in sextortion cases and has appealed for anyone targeted to contact police.

"[They] are up nearly 400% in the last 18 months," he said in a statement.

"We want young people to continue to report these cases, and to never be embarrassed to talk to police.

"Sextortion is a very real crime... These arrests in Nigeria show just how far police are willing to go to seek justice on behalf of our young community."

By Tiffanie Turnbull, BBC

Related stories: Government of Nigeria asks Interpol to place three Nigerians on watchlist over Buhari's signature forgery

Hushpuppi sentenced to 11 years in US

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Government of Nigeria asks Interpol to place three Nigerians on watchlist over Buhari's signature forgery

The special investigator appointed by President Bola Tinubu has requested the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to add three suspects to its watchlist for their alleged involvement in a $6,230,000 fraud.

The individuals in question are Adamu Abubakar, Imam Abubakar, and Odoh Eric Ocheme.

The federal government has filed extradition charges against the trio for allegedly forging the signature of former President Muhammadu Buhari and documents attributed to Boss Mustapha, the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF).

These documents were purportedly used to facilitate the payment of $6,230,000 from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), ostensibly intended for foreign election observers, The Cable reported.

On February 12, 2024, the special investigator wrote a letter requesting Interpol to issue a red notice for the three suspects.

The letter reads:

“In the course of the Special Investigator’s assignment, Mr. Odoh Eric Ocheme, (a staff of the CBN) now at large and the other two accomplices, also now at large, were discovered to have conspired and forged documents in the name of the President, Federal Republic of Nigeria with which they stole about US$6,230,000 (Six Million, Two Hundred and Thirty Thousand Dollars, in cash, from the coffers of the CBN.”

On January 18, 2024, Judge Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja issued a warrant of arrest against the three suspects.

Former CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele is also implicated in the alleged fraudulent payment of $6,230,000.

Mustapha stated on Tuesday that neither he nor former President Muhammadu Buhari authorized the disbursement of $6,230,000 to international election observers.

Mustapha testified as the second prosecution witness in the trial of Emefiele.

By Adekunle Agbetiloye, Business Insider Africa

Related stories: British-Nigerian hacker pleads guilty to $6m fraud in US court

Video - The Fall of the World's Flashiest Scammer Hushpuppi

Friday, February 9, 2024

Nigerian athlete Ashe arrested in America, to face theft and fraud charges

Nigerian athlete Favour Ashe was arrested on Thursday at his base in Alabama over multiple counts of theft and fraud, as stated by the Auburn Police and published by a Columbus-based media outlet (WTVM).

Favour, 21, who represented Nigeria at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, where he won a bronze medal alongside three other Nigerians in the 4×100m relay, recently transferred from the University of Tennessee to Auburn University, Alabama, whom he has been representing in the NCAA.

However, Ashe has been charged with four counts of fraudulent use of a debit/credit card and two counts of theft of property, third degree,” as stated by the media outlet.

In the police statement, it was stated that the victim of Ashe’s robbery at the 100 block of West Magnolia Avenue gave them the theft report on 4 February. Ashe allegedly amplified the offences by using the stolen cards for fraudulent transactions.

The authorities issued a $9,000 bond to Ashe and are currently holding him at the Lee County Jail.

According to Boldsports, Ashe is not the first Nigerian athlete to be arrested in recent times, as five other Nigerian athletes also faced similar issues in 2022.

BoldSports reported how five Nigerian athletes, Toluwani Adebakin, Emmanuel Ineh, reigning African Games 100m champion Raymond Ekevwo, Mercy Abire, and Aniekeme Etim, were indicted and charged with wire and mail fraud in the US.

Adebakin and Ineh had earlier both been convicted of fraud and faced a possible 10-year jail term after they pleaded guilty to “violations of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1957, for engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activities, collectively sending tens of thousands of illicitly obtained proceeds to fraudsters in Nigeria as part of a larger mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy.”

Abire went on to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering and risks 20 years in jail.

By Oluwaferanmi Omoniyi, Premium Times

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

British-Nigerian hacker pleads guilty to $6m fraud in US court

A British-Nigerian man has confessed in a US court to defrauding and stealing more than $6m (£4.7m) over seven years.

Idris Dayo Mustapha, 33, was part of a hacking ring that infiltrated email and brokerage accounts of US firms between 2011 and 2018, causing losses worth $6m (£4.7m), officials said.

A dual national of the UK and Nigeria, Mustapha was extradited from the UK in August, two years after his arrest.

His crimes carry a jail term of up to 20 years.

He has not yet been sentenced.

Mustapha pleaded guilty plea at a court in Brooklyn, New York, on Tuesday to four charges: computer intrusion, securities fraud, wire fraud and access device fraud.

Authorities say Mustapha and his ring hacked into the computer servers of financial institutions in the US to access confidential user data, such as users' personal identifying information.

They then used the stolen information and passwords to wire funds and transfer securities from the accounts of their victims to accounts under their control.

They also used the hacked accounts to conduct stock trades without the knowledge of the account holder.

US authorities had been pursuing Mustapha for several years.

By Gloria Aradi, Reuters

Related stories: Video - The Fall of the World's Flashiest Scammer Hushpuppi

Video - Joe Rogan and Zuby talk about scammers from Nigeria


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Hushpuppi sentenced to 11 years in US

A notorious Instagram influencer from Nigeria has been jailed for more than 11 years in the US for his role in an international fraud syndicate.

Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas, was also ordered to pay $1,732,841 (£1,516,182) in restitution to two victims.

The influencer rose to fame flaunting his wealthy lifestyle on his page, which boasted 2.8 million followers.

But it all came crashing down when he was arrested in Dubai two years ago.

According to Don Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles field office, Abbas had - behind the glitz of his account - become "one of the most prolific money launderers in the world".

"Abbas leveraged his social media platforms... to gain notoriety and to brag about the immense wealth he acquired by conducting business email compromise scams, online bank heists and other cyber-enabled fraud that financially ruined scores of victims and provided assistance to the North Korean regime," Mr Alway said in a court document on Monday.

Abbas pleaded guilty to money laundering last year, admitting attempting to steal more than $1.1m from someone who wanted to fund a new children's school in Qatar. Court documents in California say he played a key role in the scheme, playing "the roles of bank officials and creating a bogus website".

He also admitted to "several other cyber and business email compromise schemes that cumulatively caused more than $24 million in losses", the US justice department said.

Among them was a 2019 scheme, which plunged the European island of Malta into chaos as payment systems shut down after he tried to launder €13m ($13m) stolen by a gang of North Korean hackers from the Maltese Bank of Valletta.

At one point on Instagram, Abbas said he was a real estate developer and had a category of videos called "Flexing" - social media lingo for showing off.

In 2020, he renewed his lease for another year at the exclusive Palazzo Versace apartments in Dubai under his real name and phone number.

"Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings in my life. Continue to shame those waiting for me to be shamed," he captioned an Instagram picture of a Rolls-Royce just a fortnight before he was arrested.

Those who knew Lagos-born Abbas before his transformation into Hushpuppi allege these are not the first scams he has carried out.

He allegedly started his fraudulent lifestyle as a "Yahoo boy" - the Nigerian term for men who commit romance fraud by stealing other people's identities online and swindling their none-the-wiser lovers out of money.

A Lagos driver called Saye told the BBC back in 2021 that he developed a taste for the finer things in life - but was always "generous".

"He used to buy beer for everyone around," he said.

However, Abbas' supporters say he is a changed man.

According to Nigerian newspaper Permium Times, two imams wrote to the judge in Los Angeles appealing for leniency, saying he regularly helped out widows and orphans, as well as donating to things like feeding programmes.

Meanwhile, his wife said his arrest had plunged her into hardship - noting that she had to overtime in order to pay for their child's private education.

Abbas himself apologised for his crimes to Judge Otis D Wright in a handwritten note, saying he would use his personal funds to pay back his victims. He also said he had only made $300,000 from the crime he was being tried for.

However, he was still sentenced to 135 months in a federal prison.


Related stories: Video - The Fall of the World's Flashiest Scammer Hushpuppi

Video - Joe Rogan and Zuby talk about scammers from Nigeria

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Interpol confirms arrest of suspected Nigerian cyber criminal in South Africa

A 28-year-old Nigerian has been arrested in relation to a cybercrime ring involved in phishing, internet, romance scams and money laundering.

The suspect, identified as James Junior Aliyu was arrested at an upmarket estate in Sandton, Johannesburg, after a takedown operation.

Members from the Interpol National Crime Bureau (NCB) in Pretoria with assistance from members of the SAPS Gauteng Highway Patrol Unit raided the upmarket estate at 10:00 on Wednesday, 29 June 2022, where they effected the arrest.

His arrest follows a widespread investigation involving law enforcement authorities from South Africa (SA) and the United States of America (USA).

Confirming his arrest, INTERPOL on its verified Twitter page wrote: ” Last week @SAPoliceService detained a suspected Nigerian cybercriminal allegedly involved in phishing, Internet scamming and MoneyLaundering INTERPOL’s newly-launched Financial Crime centre IFCACC is already following up on intelligence received during the arrest.”

Aliyu is accused of swindling dozens of US citizens millions in USD through email and text messages.

It was reported that Authorities in the USA, where the investigation originated have applied for his extradition.

The suspect’s case will be heard at the Randburg Magistrates’ Court on 05 July 2022.

By Fikayo Olowolagba

Related stories: Video - The Fall of the World's Flashiest Scammer Hushpuppi

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

Monday, January 17, 2022

Video - The Fall of the World's Flashiest Scammer Hushpuppi

Ramon Abbas perfected a simple internet scam that helped him launder millions of dollars, riches he shamelessly flaunted on Instagram. Better known as @Hushpuppi, the young Nigerian became a fixture among the global elite as fashion houses showered him with gifts. But his fame would ultimately be his downfall.

Related stories: Video - Joe Rogan and Zuby talk about scammers from Nigeria

Nigeria suspends 'Hushpuppi-linked' police officer Abba Kyari 





Friday, August 6, 2021

U.S. Arrest Warrant Exposes Police Scandal in Nigeria

The charismatic head of the Intelligence Response team of the Nigeria Police Service, Abba Kyari, has been suspended pending the investigation of allegations by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that he was in cahoots with Ramon Abbas, better known as “Hushpuppi“ a Nigerian “Yahoo boy,” a popular Nigerian term for cyber criminals, involved in money laundering and fraud.

Abbas was arrested in Dubai last year, and after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—not extradited—he arrived in the United States to face trial. After pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain, Abbas was sentenced by a Los Angeles court to a maximum of twenty years in prison for “conspiracy to engage in money laundering.” Abbas allegedly paid Kyari N8 million (about $20,000) to arrest and jail a rogue member of Abbas’ criminal group; those allegations are currently being investigated by the Nigerian police. A U.S. district court issued a warrant for Kyari’s arrest, but American authorities have not requested his extradition, though much of the Nigerian media expects that they will do so.

Like many of his U.S. mafia forerunners, Abbas advertised a flamboyant lifestyle, featuring photographs of him lounging about a fleet of Rolls Royce cars and a private plane. He became something of a folk hero among the poor, with some 2.5 million Instagram followers. Operating over the internet, his victims—he is known to have targeted a U.S. law firm, a foreign bank, an English Premier League soccer club, and a Qatari school—would appear to have been mostly non-Nigerian.

Perhaps because of Hushpuppi’s flamboyance and Abba Kyari’s charisma and reputation for rectitude, the episode has become a media sensation and is seen as further damaging Nigeria’s international reputation. Some commentators, however, see a silver lining: a senior police official is being investigated and has been suspended, rather than the usual official cover-up.

Whatever Nigeria’s reputation, that of the police is poor, both at home and abroad. Among Nigerians, the police are a byword for corruption—grand and petty—and harassment, especially of the poor. Anti-police sentiment boiled over late last year in protests against the notoriously brutal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS)—for which Kyari formerly served as the officer-in-charge—collectively known as #EndSARS. The Buhari administration has promised police reform, of which there has been little evidence. However, the investigation of Abba Kyari could be a hopeful sign.

It should be noted that Abba Kyari of the National Police is not to be confused with Abba Kyari, chief of staff to President Buhari until his death last year from COVID-19.


Related stories: Nigeria suspends 'Hushpuppi-linked' police officer Abba Kyari

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Nigeria suspends 'Hushpuppi-linked' police officer Abba Kyari


Nigeria has suspended one of its most highly respected police officers after he was indicted in the US on money laundering charges.

Deputy commissioner Abba Kyari is accused of taking bribes from Nigerian Instagram celebrity Ray Hushpuppi, who has pleaded guilty to money laundering in the US.

Mr Kyari has denied the allegations.

The allegations shocked many Nigerians as he was known as a "super cop" who went after criminals.

Court documents filed in California said the 37-year-old Hushpuppi's crimes cost victims almost $24m (£17m).

Hushpuppi, whose real name is Ramon Abbas, posed as real estate developer in Dubai and posted photos of his lavish lifestyle on Instagram, where he had 2.5m followers.

He was charged in the US following his extradition from Dubai last year.

Kristi Johnson, acting director of the FBI's Los Angeles office, said Hushpuppi was one of the "most high-profile money launderers in the world".

His "celebrity status and ability to make connections seeped into legitimate organisations and led to several spin-off schemes in the US and abroad", she said.

In a statement last week, US officials said that Hushpuppi had alleged in an affidavit that he got Mr Kyari to arrest a syndicate member with whom he had fallen out.

Mr Kyari allegedly sent Hushpuppi details of a bank account in which he could deposit payment for the arrest, the statement said.

Nigeria's Police Service Commission - which is in charge of disciplining officers - said Mr Kyari would remain suspended pending the outcome of investigations.

Mr Kyari described the allegations as ''false'' and said his "hands are clean''.

The allegations against Mr Kyari has caused huge controversy in Nigeria - some people believe them while others say he has been set up.

It is unclear whether he will be extradited to the US to stand trial.

Hushpuppi could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

In one scheme, he attempted to steal more than $1.1m from someone who wanted to fund a new children's school in Qatar, the documents said.

Court records unsealed last week said he pleaded guilty to this charge on 20 April.

By Ishaq Khalid 


Related story: The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Nigerian men arrested over German PPE 'scam

 Two Nigerian men have been arrested for allegedly scamming a German state that tried to buy 2.3m euros (£2m) of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Nigerian police say they cloned the website of a Dutch company to obtain an order from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

When the PPE didn't show up, a state government representative visited the company's offices in the Netherlands.

The company then informed him that they had never done business with him.

The representative notified the Dutch police and investigations led to Nigeria where the two suspects were arrested in the commercial capital, Lagos. They are due to appear in court soon.

The suspects, Babatunde Adesanya and Akinpelu Hassan Abass, were members of a "sophisticated transnational criminal network", Nigerian police said in a statement.

The pair allegedly cloned the corporate website of ILBN Holdings BV in order to carry out the scam on Freiherr Fredrick Von Hahn, who represented North Rhine-Westphalia. The PPE was needed for the battle against coronavirus.

Two more arrests have also been made in the Netherlands.

According to Nigerian police, Mr Von Hahn was "disturbed" when the PPE did not arrive, only to find out that "the company never did business with him and that the transaction was a scam".


Friday, August 21, 2020

Nigerian man, 50, extradited from Canada to face U.S. fraud charges for alleged sweepstakes scam

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.


Related stories: Police rescues American lady locked in Lagos hotel after fake marriage, arrests Nigerian

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

Monday, July 13, 2020

Police rescues American lady locked in Lagos hotel after fake marriage, arrests Nigerian

Nigeria Police operatives have rescued an American lady confined in a Lagos hotel where she was held against her wish for over a year.

Force spokesman, Frank Mba, made this known in a statement on Sunday.

The victim, from Washington DC, is a retired civil servant in the United States.

She arrived Nigeria on 13th February, 2019 on a visit to a Nigerian, Chukwuebuka Kasi Obiaku.

The 34-year-old is a native of Ikeduru LGA of Imo State. The duo met on Facebook.

The victim was freed by agents attached to the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), Ogun State annex.

The operation followed information received from a Nigerian in the Meiran area of Lagos State.

The Police described Obiaku, a graduate of Business Administration and Management, as an internet fraudster who has defrauded many both locally and internationally.

He lured the American to Nigeria under the pretext of love and deceitfully married her on 15th May, 2019.

The suspect subsequently held her captive in a hotel and extorted a total of $48,000.

Obiaku also forcefully took control of her credit and debit cards and operated her bank accounts, including the receipt of her monthly retirement benefits and allowances.

This went on for a period of fifteen months.

Obiaku also used the victim as a front to defraud her associates and other foreign personalities and companies.

He will be charged to court upon conclusion of investigation and prosecuted in line with the Cybercrime Prevention/Prohibition Act, 2015.

By Wale Odunsi
Daily Post

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Hushpuppis And Nigeria’s Image

The arrests of Ramoni Igbadole Abbas, commonly known as Hushpuppi; Jacob Ponle, known as Woodberry; and ten others last month by the expert combination of the FBI, INTERPOL, and the Dubai police in the United Arab Emirates has reopened the unpleasant conversation about international cybercrimes. It has equally re-centered the issue of Nigeria’s image vis-à-vis crime and the most populous African nation’s citizens.

According to official news sources, at the time of the 38-year-old’s arrest, Hushpuppi had victimised over 1.9 million people, 21 laptop computers, 15 memory storage devices, 5 hard drives, 47 smartphones, and 15 flash drives. Investigators announced that he, alongside his aids, defrauded people up to the tune of $435,611,200 (N169.01 billion) based on documents recovered to indicate fraudulence “on a global scale.” Did I mention that he was the owner of 13 luxury cars worth up to $6,806,425 (N2.640 billion) too?

It is erroneous to assume that Hushpuppi’s case is isolated. The pattern and frequency prove otherwise; they show that the menace is not only endemic, but extensive. Last year, much-celebrated Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 2016 honoree and chairman of Invictus Group, Obinwanne Okeke was arrested and recently pleaded guilty to FBI charges for $11 million (N4.2 billion) internet fraud facing up to 20 years imprisonment sentence; in August 2019, the FBI released a list of 80 wanted Nigerian cybercriminals for an alleged $6 million cybercrime noting that “the overall conspiracy was responsible for the attempted theft of at least $40 million,” while arresting two co-conspirators: Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe; 6 Nigerian nationals—Richard Izuchukwu Uzuh; Alex Afolabi Ogunshakin; Felix Osilama Okpoh; Abiola Ayorinde Kayode; Nnamdi Orson Benson; and Michael Olorunyomi—are currently on the FBI’s “Cyber’s Most Wanted” list for defrauding “over 70 different businesses in the US with a combined loss of over $6,000,000” according to its official twitter account.

Underlying all these cases is a certain measure of self-indulgence which seeks to exploit the efforts of innocent victims, capitalising on codified methods of cybercriminality frowned upon by international laws, and counterproductive to the image-building goals of Nigeria. Acts such as phishing, engaging in Business Email Compromise (BEC), ransomware, banking malware and other widely recognised cyberthreats have been at the forefront of their activities.

Following Hushpuppi’s arrest, social media platforms began witnessing a sense of distancing. But unlike the social distancing globally induced by the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), we became accustomed to social media distancing initiated by those who had once dined with the overtly brash Hushpuppi. More importantly though, the often-repeated lines of denunciation by Nigerian public officials greeted our airwaves as expected. The central message was the same as always: ALL Nigerians should not be lumped into the soiled perception of fraudulence, uncharacteristically championed by most recently arrested infamous nationals like Hushpuppi, Obinwanne, Mompha and their ilk.

“This is really denting to our image as a people, but like I always say, fraud does not represent who we are as Nigerians. Hardworking. dedicated. committed,” the Chairman/CEO, Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM), Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa retweeted to a tweet detailing Hushpuppi’s fraudulent acts on June 25, 2020. Public relations messages like the one by Hon. Dabiri-Erewa are, perhaps, important in the fight to redeem Nigeria’s already battered image—somewhat reminiscent of the late Information Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili’s campaign: “Nigeria: Good People, Great Nation.” However, they reek of gross unexamined self-reflection in many forms. And I will highlight some.

First, at face value, these cybercrimes committed by Nigerian nationals portray a certain get-rich-quick syndrome which has become a deified, noticeable trend mostly exhibited—to varying degrees—across social media platforms. Exotic cars are flaunted, designer wears rocked, glittering accessories are customary looks across verified pages and profiles, as if to separate those that have “made it” from those trying to stay as legitimate and clean as the strength of their manhood and the integrity of their professional crafts entail. That these self-acclaimed “made men” have millions of followers on their social media accounts portrays the alternate universe we live in, where the disenfranchised see them as role models to aspire to become. Yet, there is a profound truth to be gleaned from this aforementioned syndrome.

On deeper observation, it epitomises the present spirit of Nigeria’s younger generation. In terms of age structure according to the 2019 CIA World Factbook, Nigeria’s “early working age” and “mature working age” boast a population pyramid combination of 15-24 years (19.81%) and 25-54 years (30.44%). That equals a combined 50.25%. To put it differently, a 2020 pew research notes that only 5% of Nigeria’s population is 60 or older with a median age of just 18. In other words, 95% (or 195,700.000) of Nigeria’s 206 million population is under the age of 60—a rather astronomical figure that has been failed by the Nigerian experiment with no hope in sight.

The loss of hope in a nonexistent socioeconomic structure is a direct indictment of Nigeria. As Chinua Achebe aptly quips, it is a reiteration of “a failure of leadership.” Admittedly, this does not cloak the blame due these few fraudulent Nigerian nationals. Integrity is an intrinsic, conscious value to be continually upheld as a self-guide by every individual regardless of external forces of failure. To blame the vices of evil without highlighting the deepening failures of governance across all dynamics though, is to be selective about the realities of our normative socioeconomic and political truth.

Secondly, that the indictments of these cyber-criminals have been executed by such international law enforcement bodies like the FBI, INTERPOL, and the Dubai Police Force, reiterates our perceived views about the interests and mandates of the anti-graft commission. It exposes the failures of Nigeria’s national anti-crime agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), again, making a mockery of the nation’s image as one only interested in selectively fighting against crime.

Since the Commission’s creation in 2004 to “prevent, investigate, prosecute and penalise economic and financial crimes and is charged with the responsibility of enforcing the provisions of other laws and regulations relating to economic and financial crimes,” its results have been, to put it bluntly, abysmal. In May 2018, the EFCC’s Head, Media and Publicity, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren claimed that the Commission had, within three years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, secured 603 convictions: 103, 195, and 189 for 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively. He also claimed that the Commission had recovered about 500 billion naira in Nigeria’s embezzled commonwealth. Fast-forward to this year’s Democracy Day, June 11, while speaking at a press conference, the Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu noted thus: “Our scorecard in the area of conviction is 2,240 in the last five years and we recovered assets in excess of N980 billion, with quite a large array of non-monetary assets.”

As at the time of writing this piece, Ibrahim Magu has been arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS).

Juxtaposing these “recovered” stolen funds with the 2018 Brooking Institution report that every minute, six people in Nigeria fall into extreme poverty—defined by the United Nations to mean those who earn $1.90 (a meagre N760) or less daily—is a tough task. In the same year, Nigeria would become the “poverty capital of the world” overtaking India—a nation with more than six times its population size—and is set to remain so for the next generation. That we have reportedly recovered N980 billion ($2,529,977,800.00) under the present administration by the EFCC alone, even as Nigerian fall into extreme poverty, is almost unimaginable. There have also been allegations of Magu “relooting the loots”—a codified notion that the recovered funds have been used for personal gains instead of being reimbursed into the coffers of Nigeria’s commonwealth.

Supposing we even ignore these random convictions and focus on the assumed big fishes as my curiosity suggested during the writing of this piece, my inquiry into the most sensitive cases betrayed hope as well. Of all 43 cases termed “high profile cases being prosecuted by the EFCC” as shown here with the earliest dated 2007, only four (a measly 9.30%) of the cases have been “dismissed.” A massive 39 of the cases (90.7%) are still “ongoing” or have “commenced” including those on “interlocutory appeal at the Supreme Court.” The perception is thus that Nigeria’s anti-crime agencies are mere watchdogs for political witch-hunting, readily available and only potent against targeted individuals and organisations.

This endemic betrayal of trust in the Nigerian system and the astronomical surge in cybercrimes by its nationals, have come at a grave cost to Nigeria’s international image. 419—the section of the Nigerian Criminal Code—is now an emblem of our economic and financial realities. Cybercrime is now an automatic indictment of both the average Nigerian and Nigeria’s character, just as our comatose international image lies critically at the selective mercy of western propaganda. It has equally fostered an unconscious guilt we have to bear across all international institutions as Nigerians. And its implications have been even more damaging: our emails are rejected; our notices for denial are stamped with imperialist prejudice; our visa applications—whether for tourism, work, or studies—are denied with reckless abandon; our green international passports are treated with utter disdain. We are judged based on our perceived unscrupulousness than on the merits of our individual characters. And even when meritorious acts are associated with the Nigerian nationality, there is the preconceived idea that an ill must have contributed to the outcome. Through it all, no iota of success or failure of the Nigerian is without the asterisk of potential criminality.

Thankfully, international anti-crime agencies have been successful in fishing out these hoodlums and charging them appropriately. However, what does not fall under the jurisdiction of INTERPOL, FBI, or any other anti-crime agency is the urgent need to redeem Nigeria’s image. To do this, is to reexamine the erroneous one-way-street perception of criminal acts, which is to call out the failures of both the leaders and the led. To do this, is to admit the failed Nigerian socio-economic and political systems, and to rebuild them on the foundations of integrity, transparency, truth, and justice. Until we do so, the Hushpuppis and Obinwannes of our existence will continue to dent our collective image with their cybercriminal acts. Until we do so, others will continue to look up to these criminals as role models and answers to the questions Nigeria fails to address.

Eleanya Ndukwe Jr. is a sociopolitical critic and graduate student of Political Science at California State University, Los Angeles majoring in Global Politics. He writes from Los Angeles. Follow him on Twitter @The_New_Mind

Global reputation of Nigeria dented by FBI fraud bust

Nigerians beating bitcoin scams

Friday, April 10, 2020

How the basic Nigerian email scam evolved into sophisticated malware attacks on corporates

Nigerian internet fraudsters, best known for romance scams and infamous business propositions from “Nigerian princes,” are now operating with a lot more sophistication.

Last August, a major bust by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) offered some insight into the growing scale and capabilities of Nigerian online fraudsters. Federal agents arrested 14 fraudsters operating within the US as part of a prolific network of scammers and named 66 others in a 252-count federal grand jury indictment. The fraudsters had defrauded victims of up to $10 million in one of the “largest cases of its kind in US history.” In total, the ring had attempted to steal $40 million from victims in 10 countries as well as the US.

A new report by Palo Alto Networks, a California-based cyber-security company which says it has researched Nigerian cyber-crime for five years, tries to show how these fraudsters have become a lot more proficient at scams over the past five years, employing more sophisticated tactics and tools to carry out Business Email Compromise (BEC) scams. It’s a long way from the classic “Yahoo Yahoo boys” scams 15 odd years ago.

While Nigerian actors were previously classed as “emerging” with regard to malware attacks, recent evidence suggests they “have evolved to a point where they are demonstrating signs of maturity consistent with established threat groups in their delivery techniques, malware packaging, and technical abilities,” Palo Alto Networks’ report notes. Last year, the firm’s malware tracking service identified around 27,000 samples of malware associated with Nigerian actors.

The researchers note the “dominant proportionality and sheer enormity” of BEC scam attempts from Nigerian actors. Last year, BEC scam attempts from these fraudsters resulted in an average of 92,739 attacks per month—172% increase from 2018.

Here’s how BEC scams work: fraudsters use hacked email accounts to convince businesses or individuals to make payments that are either bogus or similar to actual payments owed to legitimate companies. As part of the scam, fraudsters also learn about key personnel in companies who are responsible for those payments as well as the protocols necessary to perform wire transfers in various companies. They then target businesses and individuals that regularly perform such wire transfer payments.

Around $1.7 billion in losses were attributed to BEC attacks last year, more than losses to romance scams, phishing, identity theft, credit card fraud and ransomware, according to the annual report of the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The antics of these fraudsters have come at a wider cost for most Nigerians, as students, business people and tourists are often subject to extra scrutiny from international payment platforms, potential business partners and embassies for visa applications. While successive Nigerian governments have made significant efforts to curb international online fraud from the source at home by awarding notable powers to its anti-fraud agency, the state of the country’s weak economy and large swathes of educated, unemployed young college graduates means fraud is still seen by some as being worth the risk.

However, while growing sophisticated in their methods, Nigerian online fraudsters still “remain indiscriminate in their targeting” with attacks attempted on small and large businesses, healthcare companies as well US government institutions. However, high-tech companies bore the largest brunt of these efforts recording around 313,000 attacks last year—more than double the number in 2018.

And yet, the digital persona linked with young Nigerians has started to change markedly in recent years given several success stories in the country’s fledgling tech ecosystem over the last decade. Nigerian tech startups, innovating to solve many of the country’s systemic problems—from digital payments to online education—have attracted the most funding across Africa last year from major investors.

Nigerian software developers have also become widely sought afterbeyond the country’s shores, partly prompting a $100 million dollar bet on African development talent by software giant, Microsoft.

But even in Nigeria, local police have often “profiled” young men with laptops as online fraudsters as an excuse for harassment and extortion. This has led to significant protests and crowdfunding legal aid by the burgeoning tech community.

By Yomi Kazeem


Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Nigeria visa firm owned by man on fraud charges

The owner of the Nigerian government-appointed company which produces visas for people wishing to travel to Nigeria from around the world is facing charges of fraud and money laundering in Nigeria in relation to a different company, the BBC has learnt in a joint investigation with the Premium Times.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by the visa-processing company and the allegations have no relation to the management of the visa business.

Mahmood Ahmadu, together with his former company Drexel Tech, was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on two counts of fraud and three counts of money laundering.

Three others, including former Interior Minister Abba Moro, face charges of fraud and breach of public procurement laws.

All those charged, including Mr Moro and Mr Ahmadu, deny any wrongdoing.

Mr Ahmadu has been highly regarded in Nigeria and was given the Order Of The Niger, a prestigious national award, by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014.

His lawyers say at no time did the EFCC or any other authority in Nigeria or elsewhere declare him "wanted". They say he is not standing trial. He maintains his innocence and his lawyers deny that he is facing charges.

Stadium stampede

But the EFCC charge sheet alleges that Mr Ahmadu, together with other defendants, was involved in organising a recruitment exercise that led to the deaths of Nigerians.

Mr Ahmadu's former company, Drexel Tech, was engaged in 2013 to organise a recruitment drive supposedly for 4,000 vacancies in the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS).

However the NIS later said there were no vacancies. In total, 676,675 Nigerians applied for the jobs, paying 1,000 naira (£2; $2.30) each to register.

When dates for a recruitment exercise were set, several people died during a stampede as thousands of jobseekers scrambled into the Abuja National Stadium to take part in the exercise allegedly organised by the Interior Ministry.

"I was surprised about the recruitment exercise because I was not aware of it," then NIS Controller General, David Paradang, later told the Federal High Court in Abuja.

'Hiding in Europe'

The EFCC has said that Mr Ahmadu, who the charge sheet describes as "at large", and the co-accused, made a total of 677m naira (£1.4m; $1.6m) from the recruitment exercise.

The charge sheet alleges that Mr Ahmadu and Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd spent part of the money to purchase property in Abuja while just over 100 million naira, it is claimed, was converted to dollars for the personal use of Mr Ahmadu and the company.

While all the other co-accused, including Mr Moro, presented themselves for questioning and are currently standing trial, the EFCC says that Mr Ahmadu did not come forward to talk about his alleged role in the recruitment exercise.

Back in 2016, then spokesperson of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujiaren, told the Nation newspaper: "We may enlist Interpol and relevant agencies in the UK to track down Mahmood Ahmadu. He used to have companies in the UK and with his biometrics, there is no hiding place for him. We have already watch-listed him."

Last week, the EFCC's current spokesperson, Tony Orilade, told the BBC that there is still a case against Mr Ahmadu.

"The charge sheet reads that he is at large. The position of the EFCC is clear: the proceeds of the recruitment remains illegal...

"The EFCC is aware he is hiding in Europe. He has not been seen since arraignment."

By Sam Piranty


Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Head of jail security arrested after inmate $1m fraud heist

The head of a maximum-security jail and a prison doctor have been arrested in Nigeria, following allegations that they enabled a prisoner to conduct internet scams.

Hope Olusegun Aroke carried out a million-dollar fraud while serving a 24-year jail sentence - for fraud.

He had access to a mobile phone and the internet.

He was originally arrested in 2012 and convicted of obtaining money under false pretences and forgery.

The country's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said the two prison staff were arrested for falsifying medical reports that enabled Aroke to get treatment outside prison in a police hospital.

"The first suspect, [Emmanuel] Oluwaniyi, who is the Controller, Kirikiri Maximum Prison, as well as the second suspect, [Hemeson Edson] Edwin, who is in charge of the medical facility, were arrested on Monday, November 25, 2019, by operatives of the commission," the EFCC said in a statement.

Aroke was one of two Malaysia-based Nigerian undergraduate fraudsters arrested by the EFCC towards the end of 2012 in Lagos, following a tip-off, the commission added.

He had claimed to be a student of computer science at Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Metropolitan University, but was in fact the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents", it said.

He used a network of accomplices to commit the fraud, it added.

After getting himself admitted to a police hospital, authorities say Aroke moved to a hotel, receiving guests and attending parties.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison.


Related story: Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Nigerian scammer 'pulls off $1m heist' from prison

 A convicted internet fraudster has been placed under investigation in Nigeria for allegedly masterminding a "mega scam" from a maximum-security prison worth at least $1m (£773,000).

Anti-corruption officials said Hope Olusegun Aroke used a "network of accomplices" for the fraud.

He was arrested in 2012 and has been serving a 24-year sentence at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison.

But a preliminary investigation found he still had access to the internet.

In a statement on Tuesday, Nigeria's Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it had received intelligence about Aroke's scam and was faced with the "riddle" of how he was able to "continue to ply his ignoble trade" from inside the Lagos prison.

Following his arrest in 2012, the EFCC said the then Malaysia-based student was the "arrow head of an intricate web of internet fraud schemes that traverse two continents".

The EFCC this week said its preliminary investigation had revealed that, "against standard practice", Aroke had been given access to the internet and his phone. He had also been admitted to the Nigeria Police Hospital in Lagos for an "undisclosed ailment" and had been able to leave the facility to stay in hotels, meet with his wife and children, and attend social functions.

He had used the fictitious name Akinwunmi Sorinmade to open two bank accounts and bought a luxury car and homes during his time in prison, the EFCC added. He had also been "in possession of his wife's bank account token in prison, which he used to freely transfer funds."

Anti-corruption officials are investigating why he was admitted to hospital and how he was able to travel to hotels and other places.

The Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison is managed by the Nigerian Correctional Service, which has not yet commented on the case.

Case prompts suspicion over corrupt officials

By Nduka Orjinmo, BBC News, Lagos

This is a case that has shocked many Nigerians: how a convict serving time at the country's foremost maximum security prison was allegedly able to operate freely.

Many believe that Aroke could have pulled off his alleged exploits only with the help of corrupt prison officials.

Illicit proceeds make internet fraudsters in Nigeria wealthy and they could easily bribe vulnerable prison officials who are poorly paid.

So far, no-one has been suspended even though it is a major breach of security.

The anti-corruption agency, which put Aroke behind bars, has called it a "riddle" and has promised a thorough investigation.

It is not clear if the agency has managed to change his prison guards, as it is outside its jurisdiction.

And the other question many Nigerians are asking is: Of the many wealthy prisoners - politicians and internet fraudsters - in jail, who else has "bribed" his way out, enjoying a lifestyle fit for royalty?