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Love In The Time Of Fraud: 8 Nigerian Nationals Arrested In Internet Dating Scam, Identity Theft Cases



Love In The Time Of Fraud: 8 Nigerian Nationals Arrested In Internet Dating Scam, Identity Theft Cases

Eight Nigerian men have been accused and arrested of an internet dating fraud and have appeared in a South African court as a consequence of a large multinational investigation including the FBI and Interpol.

Authorities in the United States, where the inquiry started and where the bulk of the alleged victims live, have asked for their extradition. They are accused of defrauding more than 100 victims of nearly $7 million (£5 million) over the last decade.

All the eight men have not yet responded to the allegations.

The suspects, aged 33 to 52, were apprehended in Cape Town earlier this week after the US requested legal assistance.

The investigation is thought to have been led by the FBI and the US Secret Service, who collaborated with South African authorities, including the Hawks, an elite police unit.

The men are wanted in Texas and New Jersey for a variety of offences, including wire and mail fraud conspiracy, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

Prosecutor Robin Lewis claimed the men are members of the Black Axe, a transnational organised crime syndicate based in Nigeria that specialises in money laundering through various accounts.

The state claimed the men were a flight risk because they still had access to the allegedly used accounts. If convicted, the suspects will face up to 20 years in prison.

Modus Operandi –  Sob Stories To Victims

It is claimed that they preyed on their victims via dating sites while using false identities. The victims, who were frequently vulnerable widows or divorcees from all over the world, believed they were in genuine romantic relationships.

According to police spokeswoman, Col Katlego Mogale, “After the suspects had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob-stories about why they needed money – ie taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then syphoned money from victims”.

“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, destroyed their lives, and then vanished,” she explained.

On the condition of anonymity, a neighbour of two of the suspects told the BBC that he was shocked to learn that the two brothers were members of a Nigerian crime gang.

“They were pleasant and never brought any crime to the neighbourhood. One of the brothers was married to a South African national,” he stated.

“Once a week, about 10 luxury cars would arrive and depart in a matter of hours. These were high-end vehicles such as a Mercedes-Benz 2021, a Jeep, and a Ferrari. You could tell they were wealthy by the way they dressed.”

When the brothers’ homes were raided on Tuesday, the neighbour was woken up by the sound of dogs barking. Around 60 men from various police units spent about six hours at the properties gathering evidence. Seven other properties in the same neighbourhood were also raided.

According to Mr Lewis, some of the men were not legally in South Africa because their passports had expired. He also claimed that if the men were released on bail, they would be able to tamper with evidence digitally.

In the meantime, a full bail application has been scheduled for next Tuesday and Thursday, pending an extradition hearing.

According to TimeLive in South Africa, the Hawks are looking for a ninth person involved in the case.

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