HSI Tucson, multiagency case sends 2 Nigerian nationals to prison for international scheme that defrauded elderly US victims
TUCSON — Two Nigerian nationals who were extradited to the United States from Spain were sentenced to 128 and 87 months in prison for their roles in a transnational inheritance fraud scheme. With this sentencing, five defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom and Spain in connection with this matter have been sentenced. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Consumer Protection Branch and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) are investigating the case.
According to court documents, Ezennia Peter Neboh, 48, who was sentenced to 128 months of incarceration, was the lead defendant of a group of fraudsters who sent personalized letters to elderly victims in the United States, falsely claiming that the sender was a representative of a bank in Spain and that the recipient was entitled to receive a multimillion-dollar inheritance left for the recipient by a family member who had died years before in Portugal.
Victims were told that before they could receive their purported inheritance, they were required to send money for delivery fees and taxes and were instructed to make other payments. Victims sent money to the defendants through a complex web of U.S.-based former victims. The defendant and his co-conspirators also convinced former victims to receive money from new victims and then instructed those former victims to forward the fraud proceeds to others.
On Oct. 23, Judge Kathleen M. Williams sentenced another defendant who was also extradited from Spain, Kennedy Ikponmwosa, to 87 months of imprisonment. Three other co-defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom also received prison sentences. On June 21, Williams sentenced Emmanuel Samuel to 82 months in prison; on July 25, Williams sentenced Jerry Chucks Ozor to 87 months in prison; and on Aug. 29, Williams sentenced Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham to 90 months in prison for their roles in the scheme.
“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch will continue to pursue, prosecute and bring to justice transnational criminals responsible for defrauding U.S. consumers,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We thank our colleagues at the Spanish National Police and the Ministry of Justice for assisting with the successful investigation and extradition of these defendants. This prosecution is a testament to the critical role of transnational collaboration in tackling transnational crime.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long tradition of protecting American citizens from these types of schemes and bringing those responsible to justice,” said Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas for the USPIS Miami Division. “This result is a testament to the dedicated partnership between the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, Homeland Security Investigations and the USPIS to protect our citizens from these scams.”
Senior Trial Attorney Phil Toomajian and Trial Attorneys Josh Rothman and Brianna Gardner of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. 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 all provided critical assistance.
This Justice Department hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative (EJI) webpage.
Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/ or at 877-FTC-HELP. The Justice Department provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’ largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.