(Last Updated On: December 18, 2023)

Nigerian Scammer Justice: Why We MUST Extradite

A Nigerian Scammer Comparison of Criminal Justice

A Guest Editorial

Author:
• Gary Warner, UAB Computer Forensics / DarkTower Threat Intelligence

Why Extradition Of Nigerian Scammers Is So Important? Because Nigeria’s EFCC Lets Them Off With A Slap On The Hand!

Meet Osondu Victor IGWILO, a Nigerian Scammer
Meet Osondu Victor IGWILO, a Nigerian Scammer

Meet Osondu Victor IGWILO, a Nigerian Scammer

In 2018, the FBI Houston office charged IGWILO with being the “Chairman” of a scheme where IGWILO and his team would send emails claiming to be BB&T Bank Executives and executing various “advance-fee schemes” including investment scams and inheritance scams.

Charged alongside IGWILO were Laura Chinwa NDIFE, Timothy Adedoyin ADEROUNMU, Steve NATHANIEL, Ugochukwu Anthony Chukwura ABUNYIE, Andrew Chidiebere IBE, Ikechukwu Nnamdi ADUAKA, and Stephen Ugochukwu NWOKOYE.

Osondu Victor IGWILO, a Nigerian Scammer - Arrested by the FBI

The Case Against Them

The roles described in the FBI indictment include “Catchers” who ran the initial online contact, “Representatives” who posed as agents or employees of financial institutions at in-person meetings, and “Money movers” who received the funds via bank wire or MoneyGram, and then either wired the funds overseas or purchased goods or vehicles and shipped them overseas. At the top of this org was “The Chairman’ who “controlled and directed catchers, consultants, representatives, and money movers on how to interact with victims in furtherance of the scam. Using telephone, online instant messaging, and email, the chairman served as the link between the money movers and consultants to ensure that there were U.S. bank accounts available to receive wire transfers from the victims.”

In this case, the consultants and catchers are said to have referred to IGWILO as “Ezego” which the indictment says means “King of Money” in Igbo. All of those charged in this indictment lived in Nigeria.

Uju Okigbo, who lived in Richmond, Texas, was a money mover. Using a fake name, she formed the company U-4CS Services, LLC, an “export services” company, and opened bank accounts in that name.

Uju Ernest was an alias used by OKIGBO - another Nigerian Scammer - to form U-4CS Services, LLC

A Tale of Two Cases

OKIGBO was listed as a Co-Conspirator in the IGWILO case but was not charged, as she was already the focus of another case, involving several U.S. Persons. In her indictment, we see that her other crew imitated bank executives of BB&T and JPMorgan Chase to initiate their scams.

In the criminal complaint against OKIGBO, the FBI agent attests that victims were found not only in Texas, but also Mongolia, Canada, Denmark, South Korea, and Colorado. After having multiple accounts closed for fraud, OKIGBO continued to open new accounts to receive funds, which were either directly wired overseas, or used to purchase cars that were then shipped to Nigeria. As an example of one investment scam, Mongolian victims told the FBI agent that a member of the conspiracy imitating a bank executive promised them a $22.5 Million return on their investment. To add credibility to the scam, a “Representative” flew to Mongolia and in the sight of the victims, entered the U.S. Embassy there and exited again a short time later with a document that purportedly was a guarantee from the U.S. government that the funds would be transferred after they paid the $385,000 fee. The investors wired $980,000 to OKIGBO’s U-4CS bank account in twelve transactions. A similar case in Canada resulted in $563,180 being stolen. In Australia, the Impersonator drove the victim to the U.S. Consulate while they went in to “obtain” a similar document. They sent $135,000. The Denmark case also involved entry into the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen by an impersonator and lost $25,000 before being warned it was a scam. A Korean victim also met in person with an impersonator and wired $156,000 to accounts controlled by OKIGBO.

OKIGBO was arrested in 20 NOV 2017 and bonded out for $150,000. She was re-arrested 02FEB2018. After being released on bail, OKIGBO opened new bank accounts in the company name ONAC SERVICES LLC. New Catchers imitated BB&T and JPMorgan Chase executives and new impersonators were recruited, one of which flew to Australia to play the “walk into the embassy” game with a new victim, who wired $250,000 to OKIGBO’s new account. A superseding indictment and then a second superseding indictment were filed, adding additional codefendants. She pled guilty and for various reasons has still not been sentenced although the original sentencing hearing was scheduled in 2019. She is still in custody at this time.

Second Superseding Indictment as to OKIGBO - another Nigerian Scammer

The Rest of Them

  • OKIGBO was a Money Mover, using her companies U-4CS Services, LLC and ONAC Services, LLC to receive funds and ship vehicles overseas. ONAC Services is listed as having a “Managing Member” named “Imabong Okokon” (14520 Briar Forest Dr #5203, Houston, TX 77077) by the Texas Secretary of State, but that person does not seem to be charged here.
  • UNDERWOOD lived in Manila, Philippines and was a Representative.
  • RUTLEDGE lived in Yaphank, New York and was a Representative.
  • MARTIN lived in Carthage, Missouri and was a Representative.
  • NWOSIS lived in Indianapolis, Indiana and was a Money Mover, using his company “Indyrides, LLC” to receive funds and ship vehicles overseas.
  • UCHE VICTOR DIUNO lived in Lagos, Nigeria and was the Chairman in this case. He was arrested in Paris, France on 29SEP2018.

Back to IGWILO

On 14MAR2022, the EFCC in Nigeria announced that they had arrested IGWILO and three others “for $100 Million Fraud” and said “It was the end of the road” for IGWILO and his co-conspirators.

Nigerian Scammers: Osondu Victor IGWILO, Okafor Nnamdi CHRIS, Nwodu Uchenna EMMANUEL, and John Anazo ACHUKWU arrested

Imitating Palestinians

After being charged in the US, IGWILO and his Nigerian crew changed up their game. His Representatives started imitating The Palestinian Authority. In this case, Ajana Kenneth EMEKA was passing himself off as “Hany A.O. Salman Halima” and claiming that the investment was backed by the Palestinian Authority. He also imitated “Christopher Dods” and “Emeka Nwagu” of the Nigerian Federal Road Safety Commission.

The Breakdown

This headline “Jailed 16 Years in Lagos” captures the difference between US criminal justice and Nigerian criminal justice. In the US we have many oddities based on our history that completely frustrate us as we try to work cybercrime cases. An example of that? When charges are brought in Federal court, they only charge the cases where a victim of the criminal was in the federal district where the case was brought. Although the Department of Justice press releases describe “$100 Million in fraud” the actual case only brings $7 Million in charges, because when our laws were made, no one could imagine that a criminal might do crimes in many different jurisdictions to thousands of victims.

Nigeria carries similar baggage. Their criminal justice system allows payment of “an equivalent fine” which is roughly based on the amount of money one would earn working in Nigeria for the months or years spent in prison. Think “go to jail for a year or forfeit one year of salary.” The problem is that this equation never considered that a criminal might steal a billion Naira (or in this case, 79 billion Naira) from foreigners. What does “Jailed for 16 Years” mean in Nigeria? Let’s look at the EFCC’s full sentencing statement against EKEMA.

Delivering judgment on October 3, 2023, Justice Ijelu held that the prosecution proved the eight counts against [EMEKA] beyond reasonable doubts and declared him guilty as charged on all the counts.

He was consequently sentenced to two years on counts one to three each, with an option of fine of N250,000; two years on count four, with an option of fine of N300,000; two years on count five, with an option of fine of N250,000, two years on count six, with an option of fine of N250,000; and two years on counts seven and eight each, with an option of fine of N300,000.

The fines are to be paid within 30 days, otherwise, he will serve out the prison terms.

(N250,000 x 3) + N300,000 + N250,000, + N250,000, + (N300,000 x2) = N2,150,000 = $2,706 USD*.

A Miscarriage of Justice

That’s right. The “Jailed for 16 Years” headline in Nigeria can be entirely bypassed by paying a file of $2,706. Did we mention this crew stole ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS? And the penalty for being part of that? $2,706.

This is normal criminal justice in Nigeria. You can see how often the fine is paid in this listing of the EFCC’s 3785 convictions in 2022, where page after page of sentences are listed, most with fines of between N100,000 ($125) and N500,000 ($629).

It should be noted that IGWILO did forfeit “five houses in choice neighborhoods” as well.

* – using current value of Naira to USDollar. It should be noted that the Naira collapsed in June 2023, losing half of its value, after President Tinubu fired the central bank governor Godwin Emefiele, and stopped his policies of propping up the Naira’s international value.

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