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FBI takes down Nigerian fraudsters in $46M case

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Nigerian fraudsters

The relationship between a Japanese woman and a U.S. Army captain stationed in Syria started online, through an international social network for digital pen pals. It grew into an internet romance over 10 months of daily emails.

It ended with the woman $200,000 poorer and on the verge of bankruptcy after borrowing money from her sister, ex-husband and friends to help Capt. Terry Garcia with his plan to smuggle diamonds out of Syria.

In reality, there were no diamonds and there was no Garcia — they were part of an elaborate scam hatched by an international ring of cyber thieves operating mainly out of Los Angeles and Nigeria.

Federal authorities cited the case of the Japanese woman, known only as “F.K.” in court papers, on Thursday when they announced an indictment charging 80 people with stealing at least $46 million through various schemes that targeted businesses, the elderly and anyone susceptible to a romance scam. Most of the defendants are Nigerian fraudsters.

“We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in U.S. history,” U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna told a news conference. “We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”

The investigation began in 2016 with a single bank account and one victim, said Paul Delacourt, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office. It grew to encompass victims who were targeted in the U.S. and around the world, some of whom like the Japanese woman lost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“F.K. was and is extremely depressed and angry about these losses,” the federal complaint states. “She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her.”

Her relationship began innocently in March 2016 with an email but soon “Garcia” made “romantic overtures,” according to federal authorities. He told her they couldn’t talk by phone because he wasn’t allowed to use one in Syria.

So a stream of emails went back and worth, with her using Google to translate his English into her Japanese. A month into the relationship, Garcia told her he’d found a bag of diamonds in Syria and he began introducing her to his associates, starting with a Red Cross representative who told her Garcia had been injured but had given him the box.

F.K. ultimately made 35 to 40 payments, receiving as many as 10 to 15 emails a day directing her to send money to accounts in the U.S., Turkey and the United Kingdom through the captain’s many purported associates.

The Nigerian fraudsters even threatened her with arrest if she did not continue to pay and at one point she travelled to Los Angeles because she was told a Russian bank manager had embezzled more than $33,000 of her funds.

Authorities arrested 14 defendants Thursday, mostly in the Los Angeles area. FBI agents could be seen processing suspects in a downtown Los Angeles parking lot before they were arraigned in federal court. It was not immediately known if they had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.

Two suspects were previously in custody and a few others were arrested earlier this week. Hanna said he hoped to be able to work with foreign governments to extradite the remaining Nigerian fraudsters.

They all face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, and some are charged with additional offences for alleged fraud and money laundering.AOL

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CRIME

Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

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Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, an ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI. She is accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse of minors by helping to recruit and groom victims known to be underage.

She was reportedly arrested in New Hampshire and is due in federal court later on Thursday. Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has previously denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct. Jeffrey Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.

He was arrested last year in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls – some as young as 14 – for sex. His death was determined to be suicide.

Four of the six charges relate to the years 1994-97 when Ghislaine Maxwell was, according to the indictment, among Epstein’s closest associates and also in an “intimate relationship” with him. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016.

The indictment says Ms Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18”.

Specifically, she is charged with: Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She is accused of grooming multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein. She allegedly attempted to befriend them by asking about their lives and families and then she and Epstein built the friendships by taking minor victims to the cinema or shopping.

Having built a rapport, Ms Ghislaine Maxwell would “try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.

“Maxwell and Epstein worked together to entice these minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residences – his residence in New York City on the Upper East Side, as well as Palm Beach, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters.

“Some of the acts of abuse also took place in Maxwell’s residence in London, England.”The perjury counts relate to depositions she gave to a New York court on 22 April and 22 July 2016. The charge sheet says she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims”.

“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” said Ms Strauss.”Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them. She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and, in some cases, by Maxwell herself.”

What is the background?
Allegations against Epstein had dated back years before the parents of a 14-year-old girl said he had molested her in 2005. Under a legal deal, he avoided federal charges and since 2008 was listed as level three on the New York sex offenders register.

But he was arrested again in New York on 6 July 2019 and accused of sex trafficking of underage girls over a number of years.
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have accused Ms Ghislaine Maxwell of bringing them into his circle to be sexually abused by him and his friends.
One told the BBC’s Panorama that Ms Maxwell “controlled the girls. She was like the Madam”.

Ms Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this year she sued Epstein’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs. She “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, court documents in that case said.

Another of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, has accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
Details of that allegation against Ms Maxwell emerged in documents unsealed by a US judge last August in a 2015 defamation case but are not part of the charges against Ms Maxwell unveiled in July 2020.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Ms Maxwell is the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell. A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to many of her wealthy and powerful friends, including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York (who was accused in the 2015 court papers of touching a woman at Jeffrey Epstein’s US home, although the court subsequently struck out allegations against the duke).

Buckingham Palace has said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.
Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has mostly been out of public view since 2016. In a BBC interview last year, the Duke of York said he had met Ms Maxwell last year before Epstein was arrested and charged. However they did not discuss Epstein, he said.

Last month a US prosecutor said Prince Andrew had “sought to falsely portray himself” as eager to co-operate with the inquiry into Epstein.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Prince Andrew had “repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview.

The duke’s lawyers previously rejected claims he had not co-operated, saying he offered to help three times. Prince Andrew stepped away from royal duties last year. Asked about the prince on Thursday, acting Attorney Strauss said: “I am not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement.”BBC

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Augustine Chihuri challenges order to explain wealth

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Augustine Chihuri

Augustine Chihuri wants to nullify a High Court order forcing him to explain his wealth, links and interest in a swathe of companies, and that he and his family acquired large property holdings and other assets.

He approached the High Court last week after all his known Zimbabwean assets were placed under management, while he must explain his link to the companies and properties which the State listed for potential forfeiture.

Chihuri is being accused of side-tracking US$32 million of public funds into family companies and buying properties. The order, which the National Prosecuting Authority obtained at the High Court last month, also encumbered Chihuri and the family’s various properties which were simultaneously placed under the management of the Asset Management Unit.

Chihuri, who is being represented by Kantor and Immerman law firm, argues that when the order was granted neither he nor others listed were given any prior notice of the proceedings, or given an opportunity to respond to the allegations that allegedly support the unexplained wealth order.
The order made is an ex parte order, that is one made without the other party aware.

It provides instant relief, albeit on a temporary basis and usually issued when immediate relief is needed and when scheduling a regular hearing and providing notice to the other party is not feasible.

Chihuri argues that the unexplained wealth order constituted a “gross irregularity and a fundamental breach of their legal rights” and wants the High Court to declare certain provisions of the Money Laundering and Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act, 2019, infringe the constitution.

“It is my respectful submission that once it is found, as it should be, that the provisions of the Act in terms of which unexplained wealth order was sought and granted are constitutionally invalid, then good cause undoubtedly exist for the setting aside of the unexplained wealth order as it is an incurably bad law,” said Chihuri.

In challenging the constitutionality of the impugned provisions of the Act at the High Court, Chihuri and his family rely on a constitutional provision that gives courts subordinate to the Constitutional Court the power to make constitutional declarations and to pronounce as invalid, offensive pieces of legislation, although any such finding is subject to confirmation by the Constitutional Court.

Chihuri argues that if for any reason, the High Court does not wish to consider the constitutional matter, then the constitutional questions he is raising should be referred to the Constitutional Court for determination.

The State seeks to freeze Chihuri’s companies and the properties, which his family acquired during his 25 years at the helm of the police force, pending the final outcome of possible criminal investigations and civil suits.

Justice Felistas Chatukuta last month granted an application by Prosecutor-General Mr Kumbirai Hodzi for an order forcing Chihuri and his wife, Isobel Halima Khan, to explain how they acquired their properties and to interdict them from having any dealings with the companies.
Chihuri and his co-respondents listed on the application did not contest the application.

Chihuri’s daughter Samantha Hamadziripi Chihuri, and son Ethan Takudzwa Augustine Chihuri were listed as respondents in the application along with relatives Aitken and Netsai Khan and the six companies — Croxile Investments, Adamah Enterprises, Mastermedia (Pvt) Ltd, Mastaw Investments and Rash Marketing. The companies won orders for the supply of goods and services without going to tender.

According to the uncontested order, Chihuri is required to explain his relationship with Nodpack Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Croxile Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Mastaw Investments (Pvt) Ltd, Rewstand Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd, Rash Marketing (Pvt) Ltd and Adamah Enterprises (Pvt) Ltd. The Herald

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ZIMRA Impounds Ginimbi’s New Ferrari

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Ginimbi-Ferrari

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is reported to have seized flamboyant businessman Genious Kadungure’s recently acquired Ferrari following reports that he allegedly undervalued the vehicle.

This follows after, Ginimbi, as he is affectionately known by his associates, was recently arrested for allegedly defrauding the revenue authority after ‘manufacturing’ a receipt for his Bently Continental which he recently imported from South Africa.

The revenue authority has allegedly moved to impound the businessman’s Italian luxury sports car under suspicion that he used the same modus operandi to avoid paying duty in full.

Harare regional magistrate Crispen Mberewere deferred the matter after the State led by Mr George Manokore and Sheila Mupindu opposed to granting him bail arguing that he was likely to re-offend and interfere with investigations.

In a bid to substantiate its claims, the State called the investigating officer in the matter Detective Chief Inspector Erasmus Mashawidza to testify to that effect.

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