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Feds go after Nigerian scam profits

An e-mail that lands in your inbox explains that the victim of a tragic plane crash left behind cash and you’re the beneficiary. If the story sounds unbelievable, that’s because it was.

We’ve all heard about so-called "Nigerian scams," and many of us have had similar missives sent our way. They promise great wealth, but only if you wire some money first for things like legal fees. If you fall prey, your money disappears -- and the promised returns never arrive.

In one case detailed in federal court in the District, however, there may be some payback.

Officials are going after more than $496,000 of stolen cash they say is sitting in banks in Curacao.

The Justice Department’s effort to recover the money through a recently-filed civil forfeiture order offers a window into the common scam. This time, court papers say, the swindlers even stole the identity of a nun doing missionary work in Brazil, forging her signature and opening bank accounts in her name to help cover up their involvement.

Here’s how it worked, according to court records: Beginning in late 2005, about 48 victims, most from the U.S., got a letter or e-mail that pronounced they had come upon a windfall. Some used the plane crash ruse; others explained that the letter reader was “beneficiary to a large inheritance abroad.”

One key figure in the conspiracy, court records state, was a Nigerian native named Ekema Johnny Okonkwo. He has been convicted in the Netherlands for fraud and money laundering.

One Chicago woman was told she had come into $32 million. The woman sent cash for sham legal fees, indemnity fees and change of address fees. By the time she realized she had been scammed, she had wired more than $50,000 to banks in Germany, Curacao and the United Kingdom.

In all, the records state, victims sent about $2 million.

Hopefully the government can get some of it back.

-- Maria Glod

By Maria Glod  |  June 10, 2010; 8:18 AM ET
Categories:  Around the Nation , Cons & Scams , Financial Crimes , From the Courthouse , Maria Glod  
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Comments

In all, the records state, victims sent about $2 million.
==========================================
People who are so stupid that they fall for these scams deserve what they get.

Posted by: checkered1 | June 10, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

I can't believe that people are dumb enough to fall for these scams. I guess the Nigerians know something that P.T. Barnum knew--there's a sucker born every minute.

Posted by: PepperDr | June 10, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

Come on how naive can people be? Especially when you don't have any family or know of any family overseas? Just like the scams which I am sure is part of the Nigerian hustle when they mail out fake checks like you have won or worked for something and people cash these checks and then send the money back while the checks are either bouncing or cleaning out a persons account.

I guess PepperDr you are so right A Sucker Is Born Every Minute or now days Every Second.

Posted by: msruby36 | June 10, 2010 10:41 AM | Report abuse

I hope they'll get on the American scam. It's where the IRS takes half of your wages to pay for wars, welfare, and and politician dinners. Oh and big bucks to Israel.

Posted by: FiatBooks | June 10, 2010 12:53 PM | Report abuse

NOT STUPID, BUT STOOOOOOOOOPID!!!!

Posted by: kdukes1 | June 10, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Its alarming that people are this moronic...although we see it all the time in the financial industry.
Some nitwit comes in stating "I won the Canadian lottery!" then I ask them when they traveled to Canada to get a ticket and they begin to put the pieces together.
Every one of these things is based upon one of two principals: fear or greed
The grandkid arrested in Canada and needs bail money scam is a big one also.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | June 10, 2010 2:09 PM | Report abuse

ceefer66 said: This is my standard response to "Nigerian scam" emails:

"This (expletive) is old. Everyone is wise to it. Here's a better idea to make some certain money - get a f****** job!"
****************
I send the same response, hoping that everyone does so their mailboxes get filled with crap!

Posted by: DecafDrinker | June 10, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

One Chicago woman was told she had come into $32 million. The woman sent cash for sham legal fees, indemnity fees and change of address fees. By the time she realized she had been scammed, she had wired more than $50,000 to banks in Germany, Curacao and the United Kingdom
-----------------------------
Their is a sucker born every second....

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | June 10, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Again the crooks want to gain not just in Nigeria but Southeast area to in DC.
What is my screen name?
And yes I have no shame so leave the blame.

Posted by: FakeFatSEChurchby7DPo-Po | June 10, 2010 7:51 PM | Report abuse

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