Three Nigerians, Jonathan Iheanyichukwu Abraham, Emmanuel Samuel and Jerry Chucks Ozor, have been sentenced to more than 21 years in prison after pleading guilty in the United States for massive fraud.
The men had prayed on the elderly and vulnerable in inheritance scams, causing losses worth many millions of dollars.
All the three men, who were living in London, were sentenced at a court in Miami, Florida. Between them, they will have to pay back more than $20million (£15.7million) in restitution orders – an order directing an offender to pay back victims for some or all of the money taken.
Jonathan Abraham, 44, was sentenced to seven years and six months, Emmanuel Samuel, 44, was jailed for six years and 10 months. Forty-three year-old Jerry Chuks Ozor, was jailed for seven years and three months. They were arrested in south London by NCA officers in April 2022 and extradited to the United States this year.
The NCA’s Complex Financial Crime Team worked with US partners, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office, to secure their extraditions in June this year. Further suspects with a role in the fra¥d were arrested by Spanish authorities in Madrid, while linked enforcement activity also took place in Portugal.
After details emerged of an international network of fraudsters working together to steal millions, National Crime Agency investigators worked closely with the US Department of Justice, US Postal Inspection Service and European partners to coordinate the international activity, locate and arrest suspects, and secure evidence.
The fraud was committed by sending unexpected letters to people to tell them that a long lost relative had passed away and that they were in line to inherit their assets.
Victims were drawn in to further communications where they would then be persuaded to pay charges and costs to release the assets.
Thousands of victims, primarily in the US, were targeted and fraud worth millions of dollars has already been identified.
Gary Cathcart, Head of Financial Investigation at the NCA, said: “This was a transnational, high harm fraud, where a dispersed network of ruthless criminals worked together to identify and target victims, inflicting life changing damage to vulnerable people.
“International cooperation is essential to tackle such criminals; by working with our partners we can disrupt fraud and better protect the public.”
Millions of people are targeted by scam messages, letters or phone calls like this every year. So if something seems suspicious or unexpected, such as requests for money or information, contact the organisation directly to check. Use contact details from their official website, not those given in the message, letter, email or a telephone call.