The Kingdom of Spain and The United Kingdom (UK) have extradited three Nigerians to the United States following their alleged participation in a six-man criminal enterprise that defrauded elderly Americans.
The Nigerians – Kennedy Ikponmwosa, 51, Iheanyichukwu Jonathan Abraham, 44, and Jerry Chucks Ozor, 43 – could face 20 years in jail, if convicted.
The trio was extradited to the Southern District of Florida to face federal charges related to allegations that they and the other members of the gang operated an international fraud scheme.
The United States Department of Justice made the disclosure Friday, in a statement on its website.
Ikponmwosa was extradited from Spain and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres on April 18.
Abraham and Ozor were extradited from the United Kingdom on Friday, April 28 and will make their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Eduardo I. Sanchez on Monday, May 1, in Miami.
Ikponmwosa, Ezennia Peter Neboh, 48, and Prince Amos Okey Ezemma, 49, of Madrid, Spain; and Abraham, Ozor, and Emmanuel Samuel, 39, of London, UK, face federal charges in Miami, Florida.
Neboh, Ikponmwosa, Abraham, Samuel, and Ozor were arrested in April 2022 by authorities in Madrid and London, based on an indictment filed in the Southern District of Florida, and were incarcerated since then.
Samuel pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud on March 27.
According to court documents, the defendants are charged with operating an inheritance fraud scheme.
For more than five years, they allegedly sent personalized letters to elderly consumers in the United States, falsely claiming that the sender was a representative of a bank in Spain and that the recipient was entitled to receive a multimillion-dollar inheritance left for the recipient by a family member who purportedly had died years before in Spain.
Victims were told that before they could receive their purported inheritance, they were required to send money for delivery fees, taxes, and payments to avoid questioning from government authorities.
Victims sent money to the defendants through a complex web of U.S.-based former victims, whom the defendants convinced to serve as money mules.
According to the indictment, victims who sent money never received their purported inheritance funds.
“The Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Branch will pursue and prosecute transnational criminals who defraud U.S. consumers, wherever they are located. I thank the Kingdom of Spain and the UK for their tireless efforts in assisting U.S. authorities to find and arrest these individuals so that they may face charges here in the United States,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
“The Justice Department and U.S. law enforcement will continue to work closely with law enforcement partners across the globe to bring to justice criminals who attempt to defraud U.S. victims from outside the United States.”
“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service constantly strives to protect our communities from predatory criminals seeking to abuse and exploit the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Postal Inspector in Charge Juan A. Vargas of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Miami Division.
“This case is an example of how Postal Inspectors will vigorously pursue fraudsters and ensure that they are brought to justice for the crimes they have committed.”
“These extraditions prove that by pulling law enforcement agencies together, we can best focus on investigating individuals and illicit criminal organizations associated with foreign-based fraud schemes that disproportionately affect vulnerable seniors,” Special Agent in Charge Scott Brown of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
“I want to thank everyone involved in this investigation and the extradition process for their dedication; together we have the tools to keep our elderly from falling prey to these scams.”
The defendants are all charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as mail fraud and wire fraud.
Neboh and Samuel were both extradited earlier this year.
If convicted, Ikponmwosa, Abraham, and Ozor each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Consumer Protection Branch, USPIS, and HSI are investigating the case.
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 UK, Spain, and Portugal provided critical assistance.