Scam Victims Becoming Drug Mules in Japan

And the Case of Donna Nelson

Criminology – Understanding how Romance Scam Victims can be Converted into Criminals

• Rika Takebe, NPO Charms

About This Article

The arrest of Ebo Jeremiah in Japan sheds light on the sinister intersection of romance scams and drug trafficking. Exploiting a Japanese woman’s trust and affection, Jeremiah orchestrated the smuggling of methamphetamine from Israel to Japan, using her as a receiver under the guise of a fabricated romantic relationship.

This case underscores the vulnerability of fraud victims to manipulation and coercion, as well as the insidious tactics employed by criminal networks to exploit human emotions for illicit gains.

Similar to the case of Donna Nelson in Australia, who fell victim to a romance scam and was subsequently detained in Japan for suspected drug trafficking, these incidents highlight the need for heightened awareness and skepticism in online relationships.

By recognizing the signs of exploitation and exercising caution in their interactions, individuals can protect themselves from becoming unwitting participants in criminal activities.

Scam Victims Becoming Drug Mules In Japan - The Case Of Donna Nelson - 2024

Scam Victim Drug Mules for Love? – The case from Japan

And the case of Donna Nelson

The New Case

A recent arrest in Japan (7th March 2024) shows an example of how fraud victims are used for drug trafficking. A Nigerian man named Ebo Jeremiah at the age of fifty-six, was arrested for smuggling approximately 5.7 kilograms of methamphetamine from Israel to Japan, utilizing the romance fraud scenario to manipulate a Japanese woman into receiving the illicit drugs.

Ebo Jeremiah, who is believed to be the leader of a Nigerian drug smuggling ring based in Kabukicho, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, conspired with accomplices to import methamphetamine with a street value of about 350 million yen ($3 million) for sale. The group engaged with a Japanese woman through a communication app, where an accomplice posed as a French man named “Desmond,” developing a romantic relationship to use her as a receiver for the parcels with drugs. The Japanese woman was arrested by the Japanese police, and later released without prosecution, as she has received the parcels by believing that she was helping “Desmond.” Jeremiah was arrested by Japanese police three times prior for possession and smuggling of illegal drugs. [see Japanese news below]

A “drug mule” is someone who transports illegal drugs for others, often without being aware of the contents or the legal implications. In this scenario, the drug mule was a Japanese woman deceived by a fabricated romantic relationship. She was convinced to receive packages allegedly containing personal items for “Desmond,” which contained methamphetamine. This method is particularly insidious as it exploits trust and emotional manipulation, making the drug mules an unwitting participant in international drug trafficking.

Another common pattern involves fraud victims being asked by fraudsters to travel to a third country under various pretenses, such as meeting a romantic partner or signing a marriage document in a third country.

In January 2023, an Australian woman, Donna Nelson was arrested by Japanese police at Narita Airport, and she has been charged over alleged drug trafficking in Japan. Donna was carrying 2kg of drugs in her luggage, believed to be a result of a romance fraud. Donna engaged with a Nigerian man through an online dating site, then told by the online boyfriend to travel to Cambodia to receive a suitcase from a man in Southeast Asia, and then travel to Japan to meet another person. Her family and friends assert she is a victim of manipulation, not a drug trafficker. [see Australian ABC News article below]

The Donna Nelson case is like the case written in Monica Whitty’s “Drug Mule for Love” [see below,] the study on the romance fraud victim being used for drug trafficking.

According to the Japanese Newspaper Mainichi

March 7, 2024

Methamphetamine Smuggling, Suspect Arrested, Woman ‘Receiver’ in International Romance Scam

On the 7th, the Metropolitan Police Department’s Drug and Firearms Countermeasures Division announced that it had arrested an unemployed man of no fixed address, Evo Jeremayah (56) = Nigerian nationality = on suspicion of violating the Stimulant Control Law (importation for commercial purposes) for smuggling a total of about 5.7 kg of stimulants (street price of about 350 million yen) by international mail. Evo is believed to be the leader of a smuggling group and is suspected of asking a Japan woman he met through an international romance scam to pick up his package.

According to the arrest charges, in March 2022, he smuggled two packages of methamphetamine weighing about 5.7 kilograms from Israel by international express mail to a company office in Kawasaki City. The Drug and Firearms Task Force has not disclosed the identification.

According to the Anti-Drug and Firearms Division, the package was addressed to a 35-year-old Japan woman who works for the company. The woman, who was arrested on the same charge and subsequently dismissed, told the Metropolitan Police that she had received several packages at the request of a man claiming to be a Frenchman she met on a communication app.

The Anti-Drug and Firearms Division believes that members of the smuggling group posed as French men and interacted with women, taking advantage of romantic feelings to take advantage of methamphetamine. [Nana Hayashida, Ryu Endo]

According to Japanese Asahi Digital New Service

March 7, 2024

Nigerian arrested on suspicion of smuggling methamphetamine, requesting cargo in ‘romance scam’

For smuggling about 5.7 kg of stimulants from Israel, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested the suspect Evo Jeremaiah (56) = residence undetermined = of Nigerian nationality and unemployed on suspicion of violating the Stimulant Control Law (import for commercial purposes) and announced on the 7th. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department believes he is the head of a Nigerian smuggling group based in Kabukicho, Tokyo.

According to the Drug and Firearms Division, Evo is suspected of conspiring with other men to send mail containing about 5.7 kilograms of methamphetamine (street value of about 350 million yen) from Israel to his office in Kawasaki City in March 2022 and smuggle it into Japan from Narita Airport. The confirmation or denial has not been disclosed. It is said that it was discovered during an inspection by Tokyo Customs.

Is it a woman’s “international romance scam”?

Since 21, Evo’s group has been communicating with a Japan woman (35) = arrested on the same charge and not charged = under the name of a French man on SNS, and the office where the woman works is said to have been the destination of stimulants. The department believes that it is an “international romance scam” that exploits romantic feelings.

Evo had been arrested three times on suspicion of violating the law, including smuggling methamphetamine from South Africa and Nigeria. (Fukutomi Travel History)

According to Australia’s ABC NEWS

January 25, 2023

Donna Nelson detained in Japan after falling victim to romance scam, friends and family say

Family and friends of a West Australian woman detained in Japan believe she is the victim of a romance scam, which resulted in her being arrested with drugs in the luggage she was carrying.

Key points:

  • Donna Nelson went overseas to meet a man from a dating site, her family says
  • It is believed his associate gave her a suitcase to take to Tokyo
  • She was detained after drugs were allegedly found in the luggage
  • Donna Nelson was the chair of a WA Aboriginal health service, and an Aboriginal community leader.

The Ballardong Njaki-Njaki woman had been on a personal trip through Asia earlier this month when she was arrested at Tokyo’s Narita Airport.

Family and friends have grown concerned about her welfare, having limited or no contact with her since.

Family members have told the ABC claims first published in the Sydney Morning Herald, that she was groomed by a Nigerian love scammer for two years before she was arrested for suspected drug trafficking are correct.

According to the report, Ms Nelson had travelled to Japan to meet a Nigerian man who she met two years earlier through an online dating site called AfroIntroductions.

The man had claimed to be the owner of a couture brand.

The ABC has been told Ms Nelson’s daughters knew she was travelling to Japan to meet a man she had been speaking to online and felt uneasy about the situation.

Drugs believed hidden inside luggage
It’s understood Ms Nelson had initially travelled to Laos but did not meet with the man.

Instead, an associate is believed to have come to her hotel and given her a suitcase to take with her to Japan.

It’s believed drugs were hidden inside the luggage, which were found by Japanese authorities on her arrival in Tokyo in the first few days of the new year.

Ms Nelson’s family were not able to contact her after she was meant to have arrived in Tokyo.

She is understood to have had little contact with family and friends since being detained, although they had been able to pass messages to her through a duty lawyer and had been told she was well and being cared for.

‘Victim’, not a drug trafficker

Those close to Ms Nelson said they were shocked she could be lured into a situation like that, and said she should be seen as a victim, rather than a drug trafficker.

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has released little detail about the case, only confirming it was “providing consular assistance to an Australian woman detained in Japan and her family”.

“DFAT and the Australian Embassy in Tokyo remain focused on ensuring the welfare of the Australian woman.

“Owing to our privacy obligations we are not able to provide further details.”

Consular assistance can include visiting prisons to monitor welfare, working with local authorities to ensure an Australian’s wellbeing, and providing lists of local lawyers.

An official response from Chiba Prefectural Police HQ, which is believed to be responsible for Ms Nelson’s case, did not disclose any information.

“We can’t confirm or tell you anything about the case including arrest or detention,” it read.

“This case has not been released to the media.

“For those cases we can’t tell you anything and we will not be releasing any details from now on.”

Long detention ‘common’

Japanese trial lawyer, Yugo Ishibashi, who is not involved in Ms Nelson’s case, said it was common for Japanese police to detain people for more than three weeks after their arrest.

He said after being arrested, a person had to be brought before a prosecutor within 72 hours.

“Within that 72 hours the prosecutor needs to request [permission of] the court if he or she wishes to detain the person any longer,” he said.

“The initial detainment is 10 days, but can be extended for another 10 days.”

That makes the usual detention period 23 days long.

Bail cannot be considered during this period, he said, only once a person is formally charged.

He said lawyers were usually able to have access to the detainee, but it was often more difficult for family to visit.

Known Indigenous community leader
Ms Nelson was earlier this week “relieved” from her role as chair of the Derbal Yerrigan Health Service.

The organisation said it was unable to carry out some functions with Donna’s return uncertain, with both its chair and deputy chair required to approve banking, funding agreements and contract variations.

“We’ve read the family reports and it makes us incredibly sad and compassionate, it is an enormously difficult time for Donna’s family and friends here in WA and truly, our hearts go out as we try and make sense of the unimaginable situation unfolding,” CEO Tracey Brand told ABC Radio Perth.

“She is a woman of integrity, of credibility. She has fearless leadership and she has played an integral role in stabilising the governance of the Derbarl Yerrigan Health Service.”

Ms Brand said she last spoke to Ms Nelson on January 2, while she was overseas, but was unable to contact her after that.

Premier Mark McGowan met with Australia’s ambassador to Japan earlier this week, as part of a planned tour of north-east Asia.

After the meeting, a spokesperson for Mr McGowan said Ms Nelson’s situation was also discussed.

“The Premier also received assurances that in relation to Ms Nelson, all consular assistance that could be provided was being provided,” he said.

Ms Nelson ran as a candidate for the Greens in last year’s federal election.

She was also involved in the Pioneers Aboriginal Corporation, which said it used sport to “assist Aboriginal young people to overcome their social, emotional, cultural and economic poverty”.

The organisation received a $1.65 million federal government grant between 2019 and 2022.

Monica Whitty’s “Drug Mule for Love” Case Study

May 2021 // Journal of Financial Crime ahead-of-print // DOI: 10.1108/JFC-11-2019-0149

Research Paper’s Abstract

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to gain in-depth understandings of the stages involved in the case of a romance scam victim who was unknowingly used as a drug mule.

The work compares this case with established research in this field. It also seeks to learn more about the strategies used by these cybercriminals.


The research presents a case study of a victim of a romance scam who was arrested for drug trafficking. The research involves a grounded theory analysis of interviews with the victim, legal team and family members and analysis of her instant messenger chat logs and email communications.

Findings The analysis identified a variation on previous stage models of romance scams and re-names this as the “romance scammers” strategy model. It also replicates previous work on scammers’ techniques and highlights some new strategies, including positively and negatively framing messages, unconditional positive regard, activating norms of romantic relationships, cognitive immersion, manipulating role, sleep deprivation and signing is believing.

Practical implications

These findings could be used to help guide future similar court cases. Moreover, they can be drawn upon to advance future research on romance scams, as well as scams in general.


This is the first in-depth case study of a romance scam victim involved in drug trafficking and is the first research on romance scams to examine in depth a case, taking into account textual exchanges. While not undermining previous research, this paper provides valuable insights that are lacking in previous qualitative work on cyber scam victims.

Identifying and Avoiding Becoming a Drug Mule

Awareness and skepticism are key to avoiding becoming a drug mule. Be wary of online relationships that escalate quickly and involve requests for receiving or transporting items. Never agree to carry packages, luggage, or gifts for someone you have not met in person or do not fully trust. Verify the contents of any parcels someone asks you to receive or send and be cautious of job offers or opportunities that involve traveling with items provided by others.


The arrest of Ebo Jeremiah highlights a sophisticated form of drug smuggling that manipulates individuals through fake romantic engagements. This case serves as a stark reminder of the diverse strategies employed by criminal networks and the importance of vigilance in online interactions. Understanding and recognizing the signs of such exploitation can help prevent the coercion of innocent individuals into criminal activities, safeguarding them from the unforeseen consequences of international drug trafficking.

If you are a scam victim in Japan we urge you to contact NPO Charms // Npo法人charms ストップ国際詐欺 


The above case is very similar to that of the SCARS former board member, and advisor Sharon Armstrong. She too was lured into becoming an unshitting drug mule through a romance scam from New Zealand to Argentina, where she spent 2 years in an Argentine prison.

Read Sharon Armstrong’s story here:

Also, learn more about Scammer’s Mules:

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use

Legal Notices: 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at

SCARS, SCARS|INTERNATIONAL, SCARS, SCARS|SUPPORT, SCARS, RSN, Romance Scams Now, SCARS|INTERNATION, SCARS|WORLDWIDE, SCARS|GLOBAL, SCARS, Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams, SCARS|ANYSCAM, Project Anyscam, Anyscam, SCARS|GOFCH, GOFCH, SCARS|CHINA, SCARS|CDN, SCARS|UK, SCARS|LATINOAMERICA, SCARS|MEMBER, SCARS|VOLUNTEER, SCARS Cybercriminal Data Network, Cobalt Alert, Scam Victims Support Group, SCARS ANGELS, SCARS RANGERS, SCARS MARSHALLS, SCARS PARTNERS, are all trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the legal department for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at