Nigerian Cons Arrested for Fraud by Internet Advance Fee Scams
AP - Sydney, Australia 10/31/03 - Prosecutors told a court Friday that a man charged with theft and fraud swindled the equivalent of $4.5-million (Canadian) out of hundreds of victims who believed they could claim some of the Nigerian president's foreign assets.
Nick Marinellis, 39, appeared briefly in a court in the city of Dubbo Friday after he was arrested in the nearby town of Nyngan on Thursday; he did not enter a plea to 17 charges of theft and fraud. It was not immediately clear what sentence he faced if convicted.
Magistrate Tom Hodgson refused bail, confiscated Mr. Marinellis' passport, and ordered him to reappear in a Sydney court on Dec. 12.
Police alleged that hundreds of people in Australia and other countries including Malaysia, Japan, Norway, Greece, Indonesia and England have fallen prey to Mr. Marinellis' scheme.
He allegedly sent letters and e-mails asking people to help the Nigerian president recover funds that have long been deposited in foreign bank accounts, saying they will be financially rewarded if they help cover the costs of recouping the money.
“The scam was operated from different points around the globe culminating with the accused," a police prosecutor told the court.
Police said Mr. Marinellis had conned 571,302 Australian dollars (about $525,000 Canadian) from a Saudi sheik. Police add that they began investigating Marinellis in February following a complaint by the Hungarian Consulate in Sydney.
Australian authorities have informed several international and overseas agencies of Mr. Marinellis' arrest including Interpol, the U.S. Secret Service and British police.
His alleged scheme was one of many similar “advanced fee fraud” e-mail scams.
Court hears of 'Alan Jones' alias in email scam
Friday, 31 October 2003 abc.net.au
A Sydney man who allegedly used the aliases 'Alan Jones' and 'Tim Webster' while carrying out a global Internet fraud has been refused bail in a regional New South Wales court.
Nick Marninellis, 39, is alleged to have made more than $5 million from junk emails in a 'Nigerian-style' fraud where emails invited recipients to enter a business opportunity.
He is facing 17 charges and appeared today at Dubbo Local Court.
Marninellis was arrested at his Nyngan holiday house in western New South Wales yesterday. Police have been watching him since February.
Police allege Marninellis phoned his African counterparts and made plans to fleece victims, referring to them as "mugus". They also alleged he said he had 220 African brothers worldwide and that Australia was the headquarters for the scam.
Police say Marninellis obtained more than $500,000 from a Saudi Arabian Sheik and they estimate he has earned more than $1.5 million in the past year.
The victims of the fraud are located all around the world, with a Japanese businessman allegedly being defrauded by Marninellis, who was allegedly using the alias 'Alan Jones'.
Marninellis cited his mental illness during his unsuccessful bail application. The defence argued that his treatment for schizophrenia would be hampered by spending time in jail.
But magistrate Tom Hodgson took the prosecution's assertion that Marninellis was a high flight risk into account when refusing bail.
Mr Hodgson also referred to the large amount of money involved.
Scammer gets scammed as Bethel, CT woman helps catch alleged perpetrator of ‘Nigerian’ e-mail scheme
By Karen Ali - THE NEWS-TIMES (excerpt) 11/06/03
When most people receive the Nigerian fraud e-mails promising them millions, they get rid of them faster than they can say "delete.”
Bethel resident Heidi Evans receives at least one of these e-mails a day. She knows they are scams. Someone she knew lost money in a similar scheme in the 1990s.
Unlike most people, though, Evans has been doing something about them.
For more than a year, she has been trying to bait the senders of the Nigerian e-mails. Her work finally paid off Saturday, when she led the Secret Service and Bethel police to a 24-year-old man from Toronto, who had hopped on a plane to meet her in the hopes of a cash reward.
"Over several months I managed to convince them I was gullible enough to go along with them, and surprise of surprises, they were stupid enough to send a messenger to see me to collect the money!” Evans said.
Evans met her alleged scam artist on Library Place in Bethel, where, she said, he expected to pick up more than $200,000. Bethel police were waiting for him instead
Police charged Nicholas Horvath-Howard with first-degree attempted larceny. His case is pending in Danbury Superior Court.
While Evans was e-mailing back and forth with people involved in the scam, they promised her several million dollars. She was told to cash a check sent to her by the perpetrators, and then give most of the cash to Horvath-Howard when he came for it.
If Evans had actually followed through with their orders and deposited the check into her account, she may have succeeded in getting cash from the bank. The checks used in the scams don’t appear forged, authorities said.
Ultimately, however, the victims lose because the bank comes after them for the money, Ashker said.
At Horvath-Howard’s arraignment Monday, Judge Barbara Bellis set a $250,000 bond and continued the felony case until Nov. 10. She also ordered him to surrender his passport and to stay away from Evans, who has received threats in her e-mail since Saturday.
The prosecution of Howard-Horvath will make only a small dent in the illegal e-mail operation, which has increased in recent years, according to the Secret Service Web site.
But for Evans, it is a sign of great progress.
"Hopefully the feds will decide to prosecute if there is public awareness that this DOES happen in our backyards,” she said.
Update: 11/12/2003 - The Register
Prosecutors dropped all charges against a Canadian man implicated in a '419' advanced fraud fee racket this week, much to the annoyance of a Connecticut woman who helped police arrest him.
Nicholas Horvath-Howard, 24, was released without charge after both federal authorities and the State of Connecticut decided not to prosecute, following his arrest in a reverse-sting operation last week.
But by the time the case went back to Danbury Superior Court on Monday (November 10), prosecutors had decided to abandon the case.
The decision has left Evans fuming.
"No wonder the scam proliferates – even when we catch them, no one will prosecute," Evans said.
Before Horvath-Howard travelled to the US to meet Evans, she received a cheque from the perpetrators of the fraud. She was instructed to pay in the cheque to her account and hand over a cash sum in return to Horvath-Howard.
Of course these cheques are forgeries but by the time a victim finds this out from their bank the fraudsters are long gone.
Evans is ready to believe Horvath-Howard may "not have known much about the money... but I’m quite sure he at least knew who hired him – which would be the man who sent the check [cheque]."
"Ironically, if I had actually deposited the cheque I would be facing a multitude of charges right now. But creating and sending the cheques doesn’t seem to be a crime anymore."
"Unless money has been lost the authorities just don’t care. They don’t want to have to work to get a guilty verdict," she added.
Going to Con U02/04 - One of two Nigerian Pittsburg State University students arrested in March 2003 on allegations they illegally used credit cards to make purchases over the Internet was sentenced Friday in federal court.
Itobore Oshobe, 25, was sentenced by U.S District Judge Monti Belot to 41 months in federal prison without parole, to be followed by two years of supervised release.
Oshobe, an electronics engineering technology major, and Otu Kadana, a junior biology major, were arrested on March 6, 2003, by the U.S. Secret Service, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Pittsburg Police Department following the execution of a federal search warrant around 7:30 a.m. at the Uptown Apartments complex.
Originally, three individuals were charged in the indictment. Charges against Andrew Ikepeine were dismissed April 25.
Oshobe, 25, was convicted in November of 2003 of one count of using an unauthorized credit card, one count of transporting stolen merchandise, one county of receiving stolen merchandise and 10 counts of mail fraud.
Kadana was found not guilty on all counts.
"One was convicted, one was dismissed and the other one was found not guilty," said Kena Rice, of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We abide by the decisions of the court."
Even though there was three months between the conviction and the sentencing for Oshobe, according to Rice, the case was handled in a normal time frame.
"This is a normal time frame for a federal case. It's not the same kind of time frame that you deal with in state cases," Rice said. "Between the time someone is convicted and the time they go to sentencing they go through approximately a three-month period of time where the pre -sentencing investigation report has to be prepared by probation."
U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said that according to evidence presented at trial, from November 2002 through March 6, 2003, Oshobe used and aided and abetted the use of unauthorized credit cards to order electronic and computer equipment delivered by Federal Express, United Parcel Service or Airborne Express to an apartment in Pittsburg. Oshobe signed for numerous packages and the packages were then shipped to Nigeria.
Oshobe could have faced a maximum of 10 years in prison, without parole, for the unauthorized use of a credit card and receiving and transporting stolen goods and a maximum of 20 years for mail fraud.
Rice said that sentencing decisions are made by the court, according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.
Four African Immigrants Indicted for Role in "Black Money Scam" Conspiracy
06/25/03 - NEWARK - Three African immigrants living in Newark were arrested earlier this month and arraigned today on charges that they participated in a complex fake counterfeiting conspiracy known to federal law enforcement as a "Black Money Scam," U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.
The four men, Jean Wabo, 33, Jacques Taphehon, 51, and Rostand Tchinda, 29, all of Cameroon, and Assani Mara, 39, of Mali, are charged in a one-count Indictment with conspiracy to sell fictitious currency, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard E. Constable III.
Jean Wabo is currently a fugitive.
Each of the defendants face a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy count. In addition, Jean Wabo, Assani Mara, Jacques Taphehon and Rostand Tchinda, could also be ordered to pay thousands in restitution and the costs of their prosecution.
The three defendants, who were arraigned before U.S. District Judge Faith Hochberg, are being detained in federal custody. They all pleaded not guilty today to the charges against them.
In a separate, unrelated case, Bernard Mbu Tabala, 32, Prosper Essmoba, 36, Thierry Nkomo, 29, all of New York, were arrested late yesterday in a sting operation by Special Agents of the FBI and the Postal Inspection Service, and charged in a Criminal Complaint with executing a similar scheme to sell fictitious currency.
Those defendants made initial appearances today before U.S. Magistrate Judge G. Donald Haneke. Their detention hearings will be held Mon., June 30 at 10:00 before Judge Haneke.
The Indictment of Wabo, Mara, Taphehon and Tchinda details the "Black Money Scam," which originated in West Africa, and numerous instances, between September 2002 and December 2002, in which the defendants attempted to defraud Newark residents. The Indictment was returned in early June and unsealed when the defendants were arrested.
Among the allegations are that:
• Defendants devised a complex fraudulent scheme, called the African "Black Money Scam," where they would convince unsuspecting individuals in Newark and elsewhere that the defendants could transfer the image of $20 or $100 bills (U.S. currency) onto white pieces of paper cut in the shape and form of U.S. currency.
• As part of the scheme, targeted victims would be shown two white strips of paper which were cut in the shape and form of U.S. currency. The victims would be told that the two strips of paper were in fact actual Treasury paper from which "real" U.S. currency was made.
•Iodine-based chemicals and or powder would be placed on the two strips of paper, causing the white strips of paper to turn a very dark color-almost Black, hence the name "Black Money Scam."
The victims would be asked to provide a real $20 or $100 bill, which would then be sandwiched between the two (now dark) strips of paper. The dark color would be washed away with water and/or chemicals, revealing two $20 or $100 bills that looked identical to real U.S. currency.
• The defendants represented to victims that the $20 or $100 bills purported to be created from the formerly white strips of paper were "real" U.S. currency.
In truth, however, through slight of hand, the original two white strips of paper were switched and replaced with real U.S. currency coated in a chemical and/or powder solution. Thus, when "washed," real U.S. currency would be revealed.
The Indictment details four instances in which the defendants allegedly used the African "Black Money Scam" to defraud or attempt to defraud Newark residents.
In one instance, the defendants were able to dupe a victim into giving them $5,000 in cash. In another, which led to the arrest of two unnamed coconspirators, the African Black Money Scam was demonstrated to an undercover FBI agent posing as a Newark businessman.
According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Constable, the African "Black Money Scam" was concocted in West Africa by unscrupulous individuals and the scheme was subsequently exported to the United States and other countries.
This case represents the first time that individuals have been prosecuted, in New Jersey, for their role in an African "Black Money Scam" conspiracy.
Victims are encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney's Office, 973-645-2700, with any further information pertaining to these or other related schemes.
Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Louie F. Allen for developing the cases. Christie also thanked Special Agents from the Newark Field Office of the Dept. of Homeland Security, Secret Service, under the direction of Jan Gilhooly as well as Special Agents of the Newark Field Office of the Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Martin Phanco. He also thanked the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, Customs, for their work in the case.