Multiagency investigation involving HSI Tucson leads to prison sentence for Nigerian national who defrauded elderly US victims
TUCSON, Ariz. — A dual U.K.-Nigerian national who was extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom was sentenced to 90 months in prison on Aug. 29 for his role in a transnational inheritance fraud scheme. With this sentencing, all three defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom in connection with this matter have been sentenced. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigated this case.
According to court documents, Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham, 44, was part 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 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. Abraham and his co-conspirators also convinced former victims to receive money from new victims and then forward the fraud proceeds to others.
The other two defendants who were extradited from the United Kingdom also received prison sentences. On June 21, Emmanuel Samuel was sentenced to 82 months in prison, and on July 25, Jerry Chucks Ozor was sentenced to 87 months in prison. Two other co-defendants, who were extradited to the United States from Spain, have also pleaded guilty and are scheduled to be sentenced in October and November.
“The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch will continue to pursue, prosecute and bring to justice transnational criminals responsible for defrauding U.S. consumers, wherever they are located,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “We thank our colleagues at the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency and Crown Prosecution Service for assisting with the successful investigation and extradition of these defendants and the United Kingdom’s National Trading Standards Scams Team for its help in identifying this and other transnational fraud schemes.”
“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 of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's Miami Division. “This result is a testament to the dedicated partnership between the Justice Department’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.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). 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 webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website at www.justice.gov/civil/consumer-protection-branch. 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, which can be reached at www.ovc.gov.
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.