At one time or another, we’ve all received generous offers in our inboxes from Nigerian princes looking to compensate someone for transferring money to a US bank account. Just send them your personal information and bank account number!
Most have been wise to that scam from the start, but dozens of lawyers and firms were duped by an actual Nigerian conman to the tune of $31 million dollars. The AP reports that Emmanuel Ekhator was arrested in Nigeria’s Benin City and will be extradited back to the US to face trial.
Ekahtor and his associates perfected an elaborate scam that used multiple conmen to convince lawyers and law firms that they were helping someone collect a debt. One player would pose as a person seeking to collect the debt from a person or organization based in North America. When the law firm contacted that “person,” another fraudster would be on the line and willing to pay the debt by check. Then, a third scammer would pose as a bank and validate the fake check. The firm would front the money owed back to the debtor while it waited for the check to clear.
By the time the firms were informed that the check was fake, it was too late.
Prosecutors say the fraudsters scammed over 80 lawyers and law firms. Charging documents allege that the group tried to extort another $100 million from nearly 300 additional victims.
Ekahtor was not the ringleader, but authorities hope that extraditing him can help uncover the entire scheme.
“With the latest extradition, … the message should be clear to anyone who travels abroad to commit crime and run back home to hide that Nigeria is no longer safe for them,” Farida Waziri, Nigeria’s anti-graft body’s chief, said in a statement. “We will get them and hand them over to face the law.”