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Two Nigerians face US charges over online fraud worth 'hundreds of millions'

They allegedly used email to rip off American companies.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
July 4, 2020
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Andrew Brookes via Getty Images

US law enforcement is cracking down on a pair of alleged online fraudsters that appear to have been wildly successful. The United Arab Emirates has sent the US two Nigerian nationals, Ramon Olorunwa Abbas and Olakean Jacob Ponle, to face charges relating to large “business email compromise” scams. Abbas is accused of money laundering in schemes meant to pull in “hundreds of millions of dollars,” according to the Justice Department. He reportedly helped with a plan to launder $14.7 million stolen from a “foreign financial institution,” helped take nearly $923,000 from a New York law firm and was even involved in a plot to steal roughly $124 million from an English Premier League club.

Ponle, meanwhile, allegedly participated in several 2019 fraud campaigns that were worth “tens of millions of dollars,” including one Chicago-based company that sen a total of $15.2 million. According to the claim, Ponle had victims wire funds to money mules who converted the gains to Bitcoin and sent them to a digital wallet the mastermind controlled.

Both Abbas and Ponle could serve up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

US attorney Nick Hanna saw the move as evidence the US could hold online fraud perpetrators responsible “no matter where they live.” However, this is is also an illustration of how difficult it is to halt internet scams. American officials have been identifying foreign fraud campaigns for years, and they only sometimes lead to arrests. Although these moves could send a message to scammers who think they can escape without penalty, they might not serve as practical deterrents.

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