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FG reacts to indictment of Nigerians for fraud, money laundering in U.S

Abike Dabiri-Erewa

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has expressed deep concern over the news of the court indictment of 80 persons, mainly Nigerians, in various parts of the United States, being accused in separate FBI cases of massive email fraud and money laundering.

NIDCOM, in a statement on Friday, said it acknowledged the fact that accusation did not mean guilt, and hoped that all the accused would be given fair and speedy trial.

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Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Chairman/CEO of the commission, however, asked those accused in Nigeria to voluntarily turn themselves in to the U.S. authorities to clear their names.

She regretted that such actions ultimately have negative effect on the image of the country, but reiterated that the actions of a few Nigerians involved in criminal activities was not and could never be what the majority of Nigerians represent.

“We advise and we continuously resist any stereotyping of Nigeria and Nigerians generally. The Commission will continue to monitor the case closely,” she said.

A 252-count federal grand jury indictment unsealed on Thursday charged 80 defendants, most of whom are Nigerian nationals, with participating in a massive conspiracy to steal millions of dollars through a variety of fraud schemes and launder the funds through a Los Angeles-based money laundering network.

The indictment was unsealed after law enforcement authorities arrested 14 defendants across the United States, with 11 of those arrests taking place in the Los Angeles region.

Two defendants were already in federal custody on other charges, and one was arrested earlier this week. The remaining defendants are believed to be abroad, with most them located in Nigeria.

The indictment alleged that the 80 defendants and others used various online fraud schemes – including business email compromise (BEC) frauds, romance scams, and schemes targeting the elderly – to defraud victims out of millions of dollars.

According to a criminal complaint also unsealed on Thursday, co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries contacted the lead defendants in the indictment – Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens – for bank and money-service accounts that could receive funds fraudulently obtained from victims.

Once members of the conspiracy convinced victims to send money under false pretenses, Iro and Igbokwe coordinated the receipt of funds and oversaw an extensive money-laundering network, according to the 145-page indictment.

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