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TUCSON, Ariz. — A Nigerian national, who was previously extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom, was sentenced to 82 months in prison June 21 for his role in a transnational inheritance fraud scheme. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigated the case.
“In my law enforcement career, I’ve investigated and arrested countless criminals involved in abhorrent activity, but nothing measures to supporting HSI agents as they dismantle organizations in foreign countries whose sole purpose is targeting unsuspecting elderly victims to steal their money,” said HSI Arizona Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown. “I thank every agent that worked tirelessly to ensure these criminals are brought to justice for their actions — families are forever impacted all because of these felons’ actions as they targeted the elderly, causing pain and financial ruin.”
According to court documents, Emmanuel Samuel, 39, was part of a group of fraudsters who sent personalized letters to elderly victims in the United States, falsely claiming that they represented a bank in Spain. The letters said that recipients were entitled to receive multimillion-dollar inheritances from a family member who’d died years before in Portugal.
Samuel and his co-defendants told victims they were required to send money for delivery fees, taxes and payments to avoid questioning from government authorities before they could receive their purported inheritances. Victims sent money to the defendants through a complex web of U.S.-based former victims. The defendants convinced these former victims to receive money from new victims and then forward the fraud proceeds to others.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will continue to pursue, prosecute and bring to justice transnational criminals responsible for defrauding U.S. consumers wherever they are located,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division. “Working together, U.S. and foreign law enforcement can and will thwart schemes such as the one charged in this case and prevent further loss to American victims.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service has a long tradition of protecting American citizens from these types of schemes and bringing those responsible to justice,” said Miami’s Postal Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas. “This result is a testament to the dedicated partnership between the Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch, Homeland Security Investigations and the USPIS to protect our citizens from these scams.”
U.S. District Judge Kathleen M. Williams sentenced Samuel on June 21 in Miami. She also ordered Samuel to make restitution payments to his victims.
Two additional co-defendants, Jonathan Abraham and Jerry Ozor, were previously convicted in the case. They are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Williams in the coming months.
Senior trial attorney Phil Toomajian and trial attorneys Josh Rothman and Brianna Gardner of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, Europol, and authorities from the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal all provided critical assistance.
If you or someone you know is age 60 or older and has been a victim of financial fraud, help is standing by at the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-FRAUD-11 (833-372-8311). This U.S. Department of Justice hotline, managed by the Office for Victims of Crime, is staffed by experienced professionals who provide personalized support to callers by assessing the needs of the victim and identifying relevant next steps. Case managers will identify appropriate reporting agencies, provide information to callers to assist them in reporting, connect callers directly with appropriate agencies, and provide resources and referrals, on a case-by-case basis. Reporting is the first step. Reporting can help authorities identify those who commit fraud and reporting certain financial losses due to fraud as soon as possible can increase the likelihood of recovering losses. The hotline is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET. English, Spanish and other languages are available.
More information about the department’s efforts to help American seniors is available at its Elder Justice Initiative webpage. For more information about the Consumer Protection Branch and its enforcement efforts, visit its website. Elder fraud complaints may be filed with the FTC or call 877-FTC-HELP. The Department of Justice provides a variety of resources relating to elder fraud victimization through its Office for Victims of Crime.
HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees is comprised of more than 6,000 special agents stationed in 237 U.S. cities and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents the largest DHS investigative law enforcement presence overseas and one of the largest in U.S. law enforcement.
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