Nigeria is making international headlines for the wrong reasons.
First major news outlets break the news of the arrest by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI of Obiwanne Okeke, the self-styled entrepreneur, Forbes Magazine listed among Africa’s most influential young people in 2018.
Obiwanne arrest was in connection with a $12 million dollars scam he allegedly hatched online.
The make-belief life of Obiwanne did not only hoodwinked his compatriots but the world at large. The young man was always quick to point to his humble beginnings as a boy who lost his father at the tender age of 16 and had to be solely raised by his poor mother with assistance from close relatives back in Anambra State of Nigeria, where he hailed from.
What Obiwanne was telling no one was his involvement in defrauding people via the internet. The suspected fraudster conned several awards for himself, deploying the gains of his illicit activities for effect.
Obiwanne’s affair was still engaging everyone when like a bolt out of the blues the same FBI announced that it had arrested and charged 80 people, mostly Nigerians. Officials in the US accused them of participating in a conspiracy to steal millions of dollars, using email fraud schemes and romance scams to con victims – many of them elderly. The FBI have so far arrested 14 suspects across the US, 11 in Los Angeles alone. The remaining are reportedly domiciled in Nigeria. The Nigerian government has urged all those accused to give themselves up.
The head of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, in a statement urged, “those accused in Nigeria to voluntarily turn themselves in to American authorities to clear their names, without which the Nigerian government should extradite them if relevant international treaties between the two governments are invoked.”
Two Nigerians, Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, who are part of those arrested in the US, have been named as co-conspirators working with others in the US and in Nigeria, to obtain money from victims and then transfer it abroad. They managed to fraudulently obtain $6m in a conspiracy aimed at stealing $46m, the US Attorney’s Office alleges.
“This case is part of our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from fraudulent online schemes and to bring to justice those who prey upon American citizens and businesses,” Nick Hanna, US Attorney declared.
The FBI started investigating the case in 2016 in a single bank account but it later extended to cover multiple victims in the US and around the world.
All the 80 defendants have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, the US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California said in a press release.
A total of 252 charges have been brought against the 80 suspects.
Aisosa A. Aisosa