The United States Justice Department on Thursday unsealed a 252-count federal indictment charging 80 defendants, many of whom are Nigerian nationals, with conspiring to steal millions of dollars through online scams according to a report by the Hill.
The indictment was unsealed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California and was made public shortly after authorities arrested 14 of the defendants across the United States, with 11 of these defendants apprehended in the Los Angeles region. The majority of the defendants are outside the country, with many likely in Nigeria.
The defendants involved in the case were charged with attempting to defraud individuals of millions of dollars through the use of business email compromise (BEC) and online romance scams, in addition to other schemes meant to target the elderly.
The investigation is being led by the FBI, with each of the defendants charged with “conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft,” according to Justice Department. Some defendants also face fraud and money laundering charges.
Paul Delacourt, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office, said during the same press conference that losses involved in this case for victims total around $10 million. He said defendants attempted to obtain $40 million from victims.
There were at least 32 victims in the case, from the United States and other countries including Japan, the United Kingdom, Lebanon, Ukraine, China, Mexico, Germany, Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Delacourt said the case began in 2016 after one individual was victimized by the defendants. The two main defendants in the case are Nigerian citizens Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe.
“In the days ahead, we will be working with our foreign counterparts in nine countries to apprehend 57 additional defendants,” Delacourt said, noting that six defendants are still at large in the United States.