Eight Nigerians Charged with Conspiracy to Engage in Internet Scams and Money Laundering in Cape Town, South Africa | USAO-NJ

NEWARK, NJ – Seven leaders from the Cape Zone of the African Neo-Noir movement, also known as the “Black Ax,” and an eighth man who conspired with a Black Ax leader, have been charged with multiple charges. federal crimes related to Internet scams. perpetrated from South Africa, Acting United States Prosecutor Rachael A. Honig announced today.

Perry Osagiede, aka “Lord Sutan Abubakar of 1st”, aka “Rob Nicolella”, aka “Alan Salomon”, 52; Enorense Izevbigie, alias “Richy Izevbigie”, alias “Lord Samuel S Nujoma”, 45; Franklyn Edosa Osagiede, alias “Lord Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela”, alias “Edosa Franklyn Osagiede”, alias “Dave Hewitt”, alias “Bruce Dupont”, 37; Osariemen Eric Clement, alias “Lord Adekunle Ajasi”, alias “Aiden Wilson”, 35; Collins Owhofasa Otughwor, alias “Lord Jesse Makoko”, alias “Philip Coughlan”, 37; and Musa Mudashiru, alias “Lord Oba Akenzua”, 33; all from Nigeria, are charged in lieu of an indictment of wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, covering 2011 to 2021. One defendant is still at large.

Perry Osagiede, Franklyn Osagiede, Clement and Izevbigie are also charged with wire fraud. Perry Osagiede, Franklyn Osagiede and Otughwor are charged with aggravated identity theft.

Toritseju Gabriel Otubu, alias “Andy Richards”, alias “Ann Petersen”, 41, also from Nigeria, is indicted by a separate indictment with Conspiracy of Wire Fraud, Wire Fraud, Aggravated Identity Theft and Conspiracy to money laundering, spanning 2016 to 2021.

“Americans are too often the victims of criminal organizations located abroad which use the Internet to deceive these victims, swindle them money and, on numerous occasions, persuade victims to help, either voluntarily or unintentionally, perpetuate the crimes. fraudulent schemes, ”Acting US Attorney Honig said. . “The public should beware of such schemes. And, more importantly, anyone considering engaging in this type of criminal behavior must understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners will find them and bring them to justice, no matter where they are.

“Transnational organized crime networks continue to victimize American citizens and threaten the financial infrastructure of the United States,” said Jeremy Sheridan, deputy director of the Secret Service Bureau of Investigation. “The Secret Service, alongside our partner agencies, is working tirelessly in their global fact-finding mission to dismantle these groups and arrest those leading them. We are proud to be part of the international law enforcement mission to combat all forms of financial crime and thank everyone involved in this investigation. The U.S. Secret Service expresses its gratitude to the U.S. State Department’s Diplomatic Security Service for its assistance.

“Foreign nationals who think they can hide in another country or in cyberspace while preying on our citizens need to know one thing,” Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “The FBI has a global footprint and will use all available resources to protect the American people. The strong working relationship between our federal and international law enforcement partners allows us to reach beyond geographic boundaries. In other words, anyone who thinks they can escape American justice simply by operating outside the United States should rethink their strategy. “

According to the documents filed in these cases:

Perry Osagiede, Izevbigie, Franklyn Osagiede, Clement, Otughwor and Mudashiru (the “Black Ax Defendants”) were all leaders of the Neo Black Movement of Africa, also known as the “Black Ax”, an organization based in Benin City, in Nigeria which operates in various countries. The Black Ax is organized into regional chapters known as “zones” and the accused were all leaders from the Cape Zone, South Africa. Perry Osagiede founded the Cape Zone of Black Ax and worked as a Zone Manager, along with Izevbigie. Black Ax defendants and other Black Ax members participated in and openly discussed fraud schemes among their members.

From at least 2011 to 2021, the defendants of Black Ax and other conspirators worked together from Cape Town to engage in widespread internet fraud involving romance scams and prepayment programs. Many of these fraudulent accounts involved allegations that someone was traveling to South Africa for work and needed money or other valuables as a result of a series of unfortunate and unforeseen events, often involving a construction site or problems with a crane. The conspirators used social media websites, online dating sites, and Internet Protocol phone numbers to find and speak with victims in the United States, while using a number of aliases.

Victims of the conspiratorial romance scam believed they were in a romantic relationship with the person using the pseudonym, and upon request, the victims sent money and valuables overseas, including to Africa. from South. Sometimes when victims have expressed reluctance to send money, conspirators have used manipulative tactics to coerce payments, including threatening to distribute personally sensitive photographs of the victim.

The conspirators used the bank accounts of victims and individuals with US-based financial accounts to transfer the money to South Africa. On some occasions, the conspirators convinced the victims to open financial accounts in the United States which the conspirators would then be allowed to use themselves. In addition to laundering money from romance scams and prepayment programs, the conspirators also worked to launder money from business email compromise programs. In addition to their pseudonyms, the conspirators used business entities to cover up and disguise the illegal nature of the funds.

Otubu also engaged in romance scams and used the victims of these scams to obtain money and launder the proceeds of commercial email compromises in South Africa. Otubu conspired with an individual identified in the criminal complaint as Co-Conspirator 1, who was a founding member and leader of the Black Ax Cape area.

The wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $ 250,000. The charge of conspiracy to launder money carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $ 500,000 or double the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greater. of them. Aggravated identity theft charges carry a mandatory two-year prison sentence, which must run consecutively with any other prison sentence imposed on an accused.

Seven defendants were arrested yesterday in South Africa by South African police. These defendants have appeared for the first time in South Africa and are awaiting extradition to the United States on these charges. Both cases are before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Federal Court in Trenton.

Anyone who believes they are a victim can visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/blackaxe for information about the case, including a questionnaire for victims to complete and submit.

Acting US Attorney Honig credited the FBI Special Agents, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; and the Office of the FBI Legal Attaché at the US Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, under the direction of Legal Attaché Jennifer Snell Dent; Special Agents of the United States Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt in Newark, Special Agent in Charge John Hamby in Seattle, Resident Agent in Charge Michael K. Burgin at the Residents’ Office of Pretoria and Special Agent in Charge Jason Kane of the Criminal Investigations Division, with the investigation leading to the charges.

Acting US Prosecutor Honig also thanked the South African Directorate of Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) HAWKS, the South African Police Service, the South African National Prosecution Authority and the Assets Forfeiture Unit. , the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development of the Republic of South Africa, the Office of International Affairs of the United States Department of Justice and Interpol for their invaluable assistance in this matter.

This case is part of an investigation into transnational organized crime (PTOC) priority of the working groups on the fight against drugs against organized crime (OCDETF). The OCDETF identifies, disrupts and dismantles the highest level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a multi-agency, prosecutor-led, intelligence-led approach. Additional information on the OCDETF program is available at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

The government is represented by Deputy US Prosecutors Jamie L. Hoxie and Vera Varshavsky of the Cybercrime Unit in Newark.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictments are only charges, and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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