Investigators also lifted the lid on an intricate scam traced to two key suspects who oversaw the fraudulent transfer of at least Dollars 6 Mn and the attempted theft of an additional USD 40 Mn.
Valentine Iro, 31, of Carson, and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe, 38, of Gardena, both Nigerian citizens, were among the suspects arrested Thursday.
The indictment was unsealed after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted a series of raids yesterday morning and arrested 14 defendants across the United States (U.S.), with 11 of those arrests taking place in the Los Angeles region.
Most of the defendants are Nigerians, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
The suspected fraudsters used a variety of scams to allegedly target the elderly, individuals seeking romantic relationships, and small and large businesses, to convince them to send money online.
According to a statement on the twitter handle of FBI Los Angeles, the conspiracy included frauds involving business email (BEC scams), romance scams and schemes targeting elderly people.
They were among those arrested.
Iro and Igbokwe, who were arrested in the U.S., are accused of fraudulently getting their mitts on $6 million as part of a larger conspiracy meant to bag a cool $46 million.
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"Billions of dollars are lost annually, and we urge citizens to be aware of these sophisticated financial schemes to protect themselves or their businesses from becoming unsuspecting victims", said Delacourt.
Hanna said the arrest of the suspects was a major step to disrupt the criminal.
Nicola Hanna, the U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, told reporters.
All defendants will stand trial for conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Once money was deposited into an account, they would often quickly withdraw the money in cash or cashier's checks, or transfer it to another account that was part of the scheme, prosecutors say.
This method was used to transfer millions of dollars to Nigerian co-conspirators without directly transferring funds overseas.
The Japanese woman, identified as F.K.in court records, "was and is extremely depressed and angry about these losses, and is on the verge of bankruptcy", the complaint states.
The fraudsters even threatened her with arrest if she did not continue to pay and at one point she traveled to Los Angeles because she was told a Russian bank manager had embezzled more than $33,000 of her funds.
FK made around 35 to 40 payments to Garcia to support the Syria diamond sham, receiving as many as 10 to 15 emails a day requesting her to send money to bank accounts in the US, Turkey and the UK. Several also face additional fraud and money laundering charges. 'She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her'.