Three Nigerian men who preyed on the elderly and vulnerable in an international multi-million-dollar inheritance scam have been jailed for more than 21 years after they were extradited to the United States.
The men, all in their forties, lived across South London and committed the fraud by sending unexpected personalised letters to elderly victims in the United States, London News Online reports.
The letters falsely claimed that the sender was a representative of a bank in Spain and that the recipient was entitled to receive a multi-million-dollar inheritance left by a family member who had died years before in Portugal.
Victims were then persuaded to pay charges and costs to release the fake assets.
Thousands of victims, mostly in the United States, were targeted and the National Crime Agency (NCA) said fraud worth millions of dollars has already been identified, South London Press Reports.
Jonathan Iheanyichukwu Abraham, 44, Emmanuel Samuel, 44, and Jerry Chucks Ozor, 43, were arrested in an unspecified location in South London by NCA officers in April 2022.
Between them, the men will have to pay back more than $20 million (£15.7 million) in restitution orders – an order directing an offender to pay back victims for some or all of the money taken.
All three men were sentenced at a court in Miami, United States.
Abraham, of Cumberland Place, Hither Green, was sentenced to seven years and six months, Samuel, of Longhurst Road, Croydon, was jailed for six years and 10 months, while Ozor, Wadhurst Court, Penge, was jailed for seven years and three months.
The NCA’s Complex Financial Crime Team worked with US partners, as well as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Home Office, to secure their extraditions earlier this year.
Further suspects with a role in the fraud were arrested by Spanish authorities in Madrid, while linked enforcement activity also took place in Portugal.
Two defendants were arrested in Spain and extradited from there. Both pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in October.
Gary Cathcart, head of financial investigation at the NCA, said: “This was a transnational, high-harm fraud, where a dispersed network of ruthless criminals worked together to identify and target victims, inflicting life-changing damage to vulnerable people.
“International cooperation is essential to tackle such criminals; by working with our partners we can disrupt fraud and better protect the public.”
A spokesman for the NCA said: “Millions of people are targeted by scam messages, letters or phone calls like this every year.
“So if something seems suspicious or unexpected, such as requests for money or information, contact the organisation directly to check.
“Use contact details from their official website, not those given in the message, letter, email or a telephone call.”