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Nigerian citizen sentenced to 11 years in prison for email scams

A Nigerian man who was the head of an international money laundering scheme has been sentenced to 11 years in a US federal prison and ordered to pay US$1.4 million in restitution.

user icon David Hollingworth
Wed, 01 Mar 2023
Nigerian citizen sentenced to 11 years in prison for email scams
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Valentine Iro pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering in October 2020, after being indicted alongside 79 others, including a number of Nigerian nationals.

So far, 21 of those indicted have been convicted.

Iro and his group operated between October 2014 and August 2019 before he was arrested by FBI agents in 2019 in Los Angeles.

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In that time, the group laundered over US$25 million in funds obtained through a number of fraudulent means, including business email compromise attacks and online romance scams. Iro and two other co-conspirators operated as go-betweens for criminals operating outside of the US and the main operation. Iro and his group used money mules to open bank accounts to move funds through and filed a number of fake business name statements to assist in laundering the funds.

“Defendant Iro masterminded this international money laundering scheme for years and, in the process, stole money and identities from hundreds of victims, including some who were led to believe they were in a romantic relationship only to learn they were being scammed,” said Donald Alway, the assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

“As we continue to investigate this case and look for fugitives, we urge Americans to learn how to identify BEC, romance, and other schemes, which have increased dramatically in recent years.”

One co-conspirator, Chuks Eroha, fled to Nigeria in 2017.

Operators of business email compromise scams use a range of tactics, including the use of money mules, who are often tricked into believing they are helping someone with a legitimate transaction. The Australian Federal Police offered some advice on how to avoid such scams last year and what to look out for.

A scammer who has successfully begun a fake relationship — business or romantic — with someone might ask for help transferring money in an emergency, claiming some technical limitation and needing help solving the problem, for instance.

The scammer then transfers the money to their victim, who then passes the money on to another scammer.

“Criminals will invest a significant amount of time — sometimes years — building what seems to be a legitimate relationship with their victim,” Chris Goldsmid, the AFP’s Commander of Cybercrime Operations, said.

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth

David Hollingworth has been writing about technology for over 20 years, and has worked for a range of print and online titles in his career. He is enjoying getting to grips with cyber security, especially when it lets him talk about Lego.

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