Federal authorities in the US have announced that 80 suspected cyber-criminals will be charged with stealing at least $46 million through a number of scams directed at businesses, the elderly and people seeking romance online.
At a news conference, US Attorney Nick Hanna said: “We believe this is one of the largest cases of its kind in US history. We are taking a major step to disrupt these criminal networks.”
One of the scams at the heart of the operation began with an online relationship between a Japanese woman and a US army captain stationed in Syria. Carried out across a social pen pal network, the pair’s correspondence blossomed over ten months into a romance that ended with the woman $200,000 worse off and facing bankruptcy.
The staggering sum of money had been gathered after the woman asked for financial help from her sister, ex-husband and other friends in order to help one “Captain Terry Garcia” and his plan to “smuggle diamonds out of Syria.”
Diamonds were most certainly not forever in this instance, as Garcia and his elaborate plan were little more than a tall story concocted to smuggle high values of currency out the scam’s target.
The fraud was traced back to an international gang of cyber-criminals operating chiefly out of Los Angeles and Nigeria.
This week federal authorities indicted 80 suspects, the culmination of a probe launched in 2016, when one individual fell victim to bank account fraud. The tricksters expanded their operations to target more victims, firstly in the US and then globally, many of whom were duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The Japanese lady, known in court as “FK” was and is “extremely depressed and angry about these losses. She began crying when discussing the way that these losses have affected her,” the federal complaint stated.
Those thought to be responsible for the scams now face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft. Some are charged with further offences for alleged fraud and money laundering.
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