The feds say elderly women and businesses were the perpetrators’ targets, and that they managed to squeeze at least $6 million out of their victims in what prosecutors are calling “one of the largest cases of its kind in US history.” CNN reports on the arrests Thursday of two Nigerian citizens accused of bilking people in both the US and around the globe via an elaborate fraud and money laundering operation operated out of Los Angeles. A Justice Department release IDs the pair as 31-year-old Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, noting that 78 co-conspirators were also charged, with 14 arrests made Thursday, Iro and Igbokwe among them. Officials are seeking out dozens of others, most of whom are thought to be in Nigeria.
Iro and Igbokwe were “essentially … brokers of fraudulent bank accounts,” setting up landing sites for funds that were cajoled out of victims by their co-conspirators, who used everything from romance ploys to “business email compromise” (BEC) fraud, in which a scammer gets into a company’s email or otherwise imitates a firm’s executives to get others to wire money. In some of the more personal scams, victims thought they were in touch with US servicemen abroad. In one “whirlwind” relationship cited by CNN, a Japanese woman believed she was corresponding with a US Army captain in Syria and sent him $200,000 she borrowed from family and friends. (Those looking for love online lost $143 million to scammers last year.)