Society and Culture

419: US court convicts Nigerian

A United States District Court in the state of Connecticut has convicted a Nigerian, Okpako Diamreyan, for his involvement in a financial scam (known as 419). He was convicted on a three-count charge for alleged wired fraudulent acts, according to the US Justice Department on Wednesday.
Empowered Newswire reports that Okpako Diamreyan, a 31-year-old Nigerian man could face up to 20 years in prison after being convicted Tuesday by a US “jury of his peers” of charges related to running advance free fraud scams for five years.

In the US, criminal cases are determined by a jury of citizens who are deemed to be peers of the defendant.

While a judge controls the proceedings, it is actually the jury, made up of regular citizens who do not have need any legal training to serve as a juror.

By design all US citizens who are of age could be called upon anytime to be a member of a jury in the location where the offense is committed or where the court is located.

In this case, the case was heard in Connecticut, where citizens of that state were said to have been targets of the 419 email scams.

Diamreyan, who reportedly maintained simultaneous residencies in Nigeria, Ghana and the U.S. between August 2004 and August 2009, ran scams that involved sending e-mails and making phones calls in order to perpetrate advance free fraud widely known as 419

IDG News Service, a global IT news agency reports that the Nigerian man tried “to entice victims into sending money with the false promise they’ll receive a greater sum of money in the future.”

It said Diamreyan posed as a government or bank official, sending fake documents to victims in order to persuade them to send money via money transfer services such as Western Union.

According to US prosecutors there were allegation of “numerous” victims who sent money to Diamreyan, both directly and indirectly.

Another local US media reported that Diamreyan’s scheme “victimized people who were persuaded to give an advance payment in order to obtain a larger sum of money that never materialized.”

For instance, Diamreyan would claim he had a “consignment” stored in Ghana containing amounts ranging from $11.5 million to $23.4 million, offering the victims 20 percent of the amount if they would help him transfer the money to the United States.

Providing fraudulent documents to the victims, he would prove the existence of the money, identifying himself with different names like Prince Nana Kamokai of Sierra Leone, General Odu Kuffour of Ghana, and the Rev. Dr. Richard Camaro, airport director in Accra, Ghana.

After the jury returned a verdict of guilty, the court has scheduled the Nigerian man for sentencing in U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut on May 7. He could also face a fine of $250,000 for each of three wire fraud counts, the US Justice Department stated.

Advance fee fraud scams have existed for many years, but fraudsters have been able to canvas an ever-increasing number of people using spam e-mail. While the focus continues on the perpetrators of this crime, there remains a debate on the need to also highlight the greed that entices the victims, many of whom are willing to go after money they know is not theirs or which they know they have not earned.

Advance fee frauds are believed to be a multi-billion dollar industry, but prosecutions are rare. Technology companies such as Microsoft and Yahoo have filed some lawsuits due to the use of their brands in a version of the scam that falsely informs potential victims they’ve won a lottery run by the companies.

The top three countries for such 419 advance fee frauds losses in 2009 were the U.S. at $2.1 billion, U.K. at $1.2 billion and China at $936 million, according to figures released last month by Ultrascan, a Dutch private investigations company. The figures are estimates based only on the cases Ultrascan has seen, and the actual fraud figures are likely much higher, according to Ultrascan.

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