A Nigerian man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for sending out fraudulent e-mails offering victims big bucks in exchange for moving cash to the United States.
Okpako Mike Diamreyan, 31, was sentenced to 151 months of prison Wednesday by United States District Judge Janet Hall in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Diamreyan made more than US$1.3 million in a scam that suckered 67 victims between 2004 to 2009, prosecutors said. This type of fraud, called an advance-fee scam, was the number-one type of Internet fraud in 2009, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Last year, advance-fee fraud accounted for nearly 17 percent of the Internet fraud logged by the FBI.
Diamreyan pretended to be different people -- Prince Nana Kamokai of Sierra Leone or an airport director from Ghana, for example. He said he needed to move between $11.5 million and $23.4 million out of the country and offered victims 20 percent of the funds, if they would help him out.
After using fake documentation to convince his victims that he was legitimate, Diamreyan would get them to wire him different types of fees such as "PIN code fees" or courier services charges with the understanding that they would then get the money. These fees would pile up, but the promised money never arrived.
The scam left "many individuals and their families in financial ruin," the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
Diamreyan immigrated to the United States in 2008 and allegedly told an acquaintance that he wanted to make $1 million or so before going home to Nigeria: "i want to forget america and come back home... once i take like 1m or half m," prosecutors quote him as saying.
He was arrested in August 2009 and found guilty by a jury in February.