U.S. authorities on Thursday, Aug. 22, unsealed a 252-count federal grand jury indictment, charging 80 people for their involvement in a massive conspiracy to pilfer millions of dollars using different fraud schemes and laundering the funds through a Los Angeles-based money-laundering network.
The conspiracy involved fraud using business email, romance scams, and schemes targeting elderly people.
The majority of the suspects were Nigerian nationals, according to the statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Central District of California.
“Over the years those fraud schemes have evolved and have become much more complex and sophisticated,” said U.S. Attorney Nicola Hanna continued, “Nigerian fraud networks now target individuals and businesses alike.”
So far, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested 14 people across the United States.
Among the 80 defendants charged in a federal grand jury indictment, 11 were arrested in the Los Angeles that allegedly stole millions of dollars from victims via different business email compromise (BEC) scams, romance scams, and other online frauds.
Two defendants were already in federal custody for other charges and one was arrested earlier this week, while the rest of the suspects are outside of the United States, with most believed to be in based in Nigeria. U.S. law enforcers said they hope to extradite the other suspects.
The fraudsters targeted victims in the United States and around the world, including individuals, small and large businesses, and even law firms, according to the statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in California.
“Losses in this case were approximately $10 million and attempted thefts were approximately $40 million,” said FBI Los Angeles Assistant Director Paul Delacourt, who added that this particular case involved 32 confirmed victims.
Delacourt warned that the cybercriminals prey on “vulnerable populations” that might be church communities, elder fraud, or individuals who are likely to fall for romance scams.
Delacourt issued a statement that was tweeted on Thursday, Aug. 22.
“Today’s announcement highlights the extensive efforts that organized criminal groups will engage in to perpetrate BEC schemes that target American citizens and their hard-earned assets. Billions of dollars are lost annually.”
The FBI statement also urged “citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims.”
Statement by FBI Los Angeles Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt on massive international fraud and money laundering conspiracy detailed in a 252-count federal grand jury indictment that charges 80 defendants. https://t.co/VzONgMRUeJ pic.twitter.com/R3GMAEvcq4
— FBI Los Angeles (@FBILosAngeles) August 22, 2019
It stated, “The FBI is committed to working with our partner agencies worldwide to continue to identify these cyber criminals and to dismantle their networks.”
Delacourt stated that the latest scoop happened following an investigation that began in 2016 with one victim and a single bank account.