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An Indianapolis Man has been Sentenced to 3 years in Prison for his Involvement in an International Advance-fee Crime Scheme that Defrauded Victims of over $5.6 million

Updated: Jun 18

The Catchers would deceitfully promise the victims a substantial investment sum or inheritance, often in the range of tens of millions of U.S. dollars or euros. To add to the illusion, they would use email addresses that appeared genuine and domain names that were falsely registered

A man from Indiana has been handed a three-year prison sentence for his involvement in a global advance-fee scam masterminded from Nigeria. This elaborate scheme duped victims across the globe, resulting in a staggering loss of over $5.6 million.

According to court records and evidence presented, it was revealed that Tochukwu Nwosisi, a 52-year-old resident of Indianapolis, was involved in an advance-fee scam from February 2015 to January 2018. The scheme included offering fake investment funding and inheritances to victims worldwide.

Nwosisi's partners in crime were Uju Okigbo, a/k/a Uju Ernest, a/k/a Uju Ohazurike from Houston, Texas, who was suspected of being a money mover; Chioma Okafor, also from Houston, who was believed to be another money mover; Marita Ranalan Underwood, from Manila, Philippines, who was an alleged representative; John Christian Rutledge, from Yaphank, New York, who was another alleged representative; Osa May Martin, from Carthage, Missouri, who was also an alleged representative; Tiffany Sourjohn, from Miami, Oklahoma, who was yet another alleged representative and finally Osondu Victor Igwilo, of Lagos, Nigeria, the leader of a criminal network of “catchers,”.

The conspiracy aimed to involve co-conspirators in financial dealings using funds from advance-fee scams, allowing the defendants and their associates to profit and guarantee that the fraudsters in Nigeria could access illegal gains without being caught by victims, banks, or the authorities.

According to court documents filed in 2018, the roles of operation included the following categories:

A. Money Movers based in the United States, obtained the victims' money through MoneyGram or wire transfers to bank accounts they controlled. The money movers swiftly handled the victims' funds by withdrawing cash, transferring to other money movers, sending to exporters for purchasing goods, or buying vehicles to ship to co-conspirators in Nigeria.

B. The Representatives: during face-to-face encounters with the victims, they masqueraded as agents or staff members of financial institutions. While meeting victims in foreign lands, these representatives would sign fraudulent investment agreements and stage fake visits to the nearby U.S. embassy or consulate, all in an attempt to deceive the victims into thinking that the U.S. government was endorsing the investment agreement in return for monetary payments. However, the truth was that these representatives pocketed the cash payments for their own gain.

C. Catchers: The Indictment mentions mysterious co-conspirators, known as "catchers," who skillfully managed multiple online personas. These personas ranged from genuine U.S. government employees to self-proclaimed financial experts. Their cunning tactics involved enticing unsuspecting victims into their web of deceit, making them believe in the authenticity of their investment or inheritance schemes.

D. The Chairmen were the masterminds behind the investment and inheritance scams, leading and organizing networks of catchers, representatives, and money movers. They were responsible for recruiting representatives, guiding catchers on victim interactions, and ensuring U.S. bank accounts were ready to receive wire transfers from convinced victims. Through telephone, online messaging, and email, chairmen acted as the crucial links between money movers and catchers. Additionally, they provided instructions to money movers on handling the funds wired into the U.S. bank accounts.

The court documents reveal the intricate workings of the operation. The Catchers, operating in over 20 countries, would cunningly send phishing emails to unsuspecting victims. These emails would be disguised as messages from reputable investment consultants, advisers, or bankers, all with the intention of luring the victims in.

The Catchers would deceitfully promise the victims a substantial investment sum or inheritance, often in the range of tens of millions of U.S. dollars or euros. To add to the illusion, they would use email addresses that appeared genuine and domain names that were falsely registered then send fraudulent emails, posing as employees from well-known financial institutions like BB&T or Chase. These emails would claim to assist the victims in their investment or inheritance process, further perpetuating the scam.

Catchers, armed with these fresh personas, would notify unsuspecting targets that a BB&T or Chase agent would personally come to their residing country to formally seal and validate an agreement. However, the truth of the matter was that the representative en route had absolutely no affiliation with BB&T or Chase.

The Co-conspirators, pretending to be employees of financial institutions like BB&T Executive #1 and Chase Executive #1, would engage in phone conversations with potential victims. They cleverly used spoofed phone numbers to make it seem like the calls were coming from the states where BB&T and Chase were based.

As alleged in the complaint, Igwilo... leader of a criminal network of “catchers,” who sent phishing emails to potential victims falsely offering investment funding on behalf of BB&T Corporation, a U.S. bank headquartered in North Carolina. When victims were interested in the supposed investment funding, Igwilo allegedly dispatched U.S. citizens whom he had recruited over the internet to pose as “representatives” of BB&T to meet in person with the victims and sign a supposed investment agreement on behalf of BB&T.

Catchers would manipulate their victims into purchasing top-tier airline tickets and covering the costs of luxurious hotel accommodations for the representatives' travel from the United States to either their own country or their designated city within the United States. They would deceitfully claim that these expenses were mandatory as per the agreement with the financial institution.

The catchers would further convince their victims that the investment or inheritance was being sponsored by the U.S. government. To substantiate this alleged sponsorship, they would falsely assert that the U.S. embassy would notarize and authenticate the investment agreement. However, the truth remains that neither the U.S. government nor any U.S. embassy or consulate was actually endorsing this investment opportunity with the financial institution.

Catchers would deceive victims into believing that they needed to pay a notarization fee to the U.S. embassy or consulate, ranging from $5,000 to $10,000, which in reality was not the case.

After receiving the money, the representatives would go to the U.S. embassy or consulate and pretend to wait for notarization services, claiming that U.S. government employees were handling the process in exchange for the fees. They would then provide the victims with fake receipts and agreements, supposedly issued and notarized by U.S. embassies or consulates.

After visiting the embassies, the representatives would then ask victims to pay various up-front fees before the investment funding could be released. This led victims to make MoneyGram payments and wire transfer payments to bank accounts controlled by money movers in different locations, including the Southern District of Texas. The catchers would invent more reasons for additional payments, causing victims to eventually give up and stop communicating. Following instructions from co-conspirators, the money movers would quickly disburse the victims' funds, using them to buy cars that were then sent to Nigeria.

Despite banks flagging and closing accounts due to suspicious transactions, the money movers remained undeterred in their quest to open new bank accounts in the United States. Their determination stemmed from the need to convince victims that wiring money to a U.S.-based bank was a genuine investment or money transfer agreement.

In a significant verdict, Nwosisi has been found guilty by a federal jury in Houston for his involvement in a conspiracy to commit money laundering and concealment money laundering. As a consequence, he has been sentenced to three years in prison. The justice department's press releases reveal that Okigbo, Okafor, Rutledge, and Sourjohn have already pleaded guilty and are currently awaiting their respective sentences. Meanwhile, Underwood is still on the run, evading capture. On the other hand, Martin's trial is yet to take place, keeping everyone on their toes.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani for the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams Jr. of the FBI Houston Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Christopher Hileman of the Department of State Office of Inspector General (DOS-OIG) made the announcement.



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