"Nigerian scam" fraudsters go to jail

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After pleading guilty last year, two Nigerians and a French citizen were sentenced by a New York federal judge to jail Thursday for scamming $1.2 million through email.

One of the men, Nnamdi Chizuba Anisiobi, 31, of Nigeria, was sentenced to 87 months in prison. The others, Anthony Friday Ehis, 34, of Senegal, and Kesandu Egwuonwu, 35, of Nigeria, each got 57 months. The three men were arrested in Amsterdam in early 2006 by law enforcement authorities after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service was alerted by the Dutch government.

A fourth person, Lenn Nwokeafor, fled to Nigeria and was subsequently arrested by the Nigerian authorities pursuant to a U.S. arrest warrant. He is being held pending extradition to the United States.

The swindle was a typical “419” fraud in which the victim is asked to first send money, then wait for a payoff later of a significantly larger sum.

“The defendants sent ‘spam' emails to thousands of potential victims, in which they falsely claimed to control millions of dollars located abroad,” the U.S. Dept. of Justice said in a statement.

In one email, one of the scammers said he was suffering from terminal throat cancer and needed help distributing $55 million to charity. If a victim were to help, they would be offered a 20 percent commission. After a series of assurances, if they won their victims' trust, the scammers asked their prey to wire-transfer payment for a variety of advance fees, such as legal representation or taxes.

U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf warned people to protect themselves against similar solicitations.

"Potential victims need to know that any email offering millions of dollars that requires they send money to receive this windfall is a scheme," she said. "Delete it."

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