The United Kingdom has extradited two Nigerian nationals to the United States after they pleaded guilty to operating a transnational inheritance fraud scheme that targeted elderly and vulnerable victims there.
As reported by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), the scammers admitted to fraudulently obtaining over $6 million from more than 400 victims, many of whom were elderly or particularly vulnerable.
According to U.S. authorities, Jerry Chucks Ozor, 43, and Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham, 44, were part of a larger group of fraudsters who meticulously crafted personalized letters to elderly people, falsely claiming to represent a Spanish bank and asserting that the recipients were beneficiaries of a multimillion-dollar inheritance left by a deceased family member.
Before victims could receive their alleged inheritance, they were instructed to send money to cover delivery fees, taxes, and other payments in order to avoid scrutiny from authorities.
In total, the scammers admitted to obtaining over $6m from more than 400 victims.
The scheme also involved a crucial element known as “money mules” – individuals who, often unknowingly, transfer illicit funds on behalf of the criminals.
The fraudsters convinced already defrauded victims to receive money from new victims and forward it to others. This arrangement allowed the fraudsters to maintain anonymity and distance themselves from the actual movement of funds.
“Operating a transnational inheritance fraud scheme that targets the elderly is not only morally reprehensible, but also undermines the financial systems we use and depend upon,” said Special Agent in Charge, Scott Brown of HSI Arizona.
On May 18, Ozor pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and will be sentenced on July 27; while Abraham entered a guilty plea for the same charge on May 31 and will receive his sentence on August 9.
Both face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
According to the FBI’s 2022 report, “more than 88,000 victims over the age of 60 reported losses of $3.1 billion” in the U.S.