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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Two Nigerian Sentenced to Prison in Multiagency Case for Scam Targeting Elderly U.S. Victims

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TUCSON — Two Nigerian nationals who were extradited from Spain to the United States have received prison sentences of 128 and 87 months each for their involvement in a transnational inheritance fraud scheme. This case marks the conclusion of sentencing for five defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom and Spain in connection with this elaborate fraud operation. The investigation was a joint effort by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Consumer Protection Branch, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS).

Scott Brown, Special Agent in Charge of HSI Arizona, emphasized their commitment to pursuing criminals vigorously, especially when they target vulnerable individuals like the elderly. He stated, “These sentences send a message to those around the world who think they can escape our laws — anyone who engages in or facilitates deceptive practices like these will not go undetected. HSI will continue to work tirelessly to hold those criminals accountable and bring justice to victims.”

According to court documents, the lead defendant, Ezennia Peter Neboh, aged 48, was sentenced to 128 months in prison. He led a group of fraudsters who sent personalized letters to elderly victims in the United States. These letters falsely claimed that the sender represented a Spanish bank and that the recipients were entitled to a multimillion-dollar inheritance from a deceased family member in Portugal. To claim their supposed inheritance, victims were told to send money for delivery fees and taxes and make other payments. The defendants received funds from victims through a convoluted network of U.S.-based former victims. They also convinced former victims to handle money from new victims and forward the fraud proceeds to others.

On October 23, Judge Kathleen M. Williams sentenced another defendant, Kennedy Ikponmwosa, to 87 months in prison. Three co-defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom also received prison sentences. Emmanuel Samuel received 82 months on June 21, Jerry Chucks Ozor received 87 months on July 25, and Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham received 90 months on August 29 for their roles in the scheme.

Brian M. Boynton, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Division, affirmed their commitment to pursuing and prosecuting transnational criminals responsible for defrauding U.S. consumers. He also expressed gratitude to the Spanish National Police and the Ministry of Justice for their invaluable assistance in the successful investigation and extradition of these defendants.

Juan A. Vargas, Inspector in Charge for the USPIS Miami Division, highlighted their long-standing tradition of protecting American citizens from such scams and bringing those responsible to justice. He emphasized the dedicated partnership between the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, Homeland Security Investigations, and the USPIS in safeguarding citizens from these fraudulent schemes.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorneys Josh Rothman and Brianna Gardner from the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch. Critical assistance was provided by the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Europol, and authorities from the United Kingdom, Spain, and Portugal.

HSI, as the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), plays a critical role in investigating transnational crime and threats, particularly criminal organizations exploiting global infrastructure. HSI’s extensive workforce, including over 6,000 special agents, is committed to protecting the integrity of international trade, travel, and finance. With a presence in 56 countries, HSI represents one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

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