Nigerian used fake IDs to woo victims online – then steal their money, US authorities say

The scammer admitted that since 2017, he has received more than US$360,000 (RM1.50mil) from people online, authorities said. — Photo by Anomaly on Unsplash

A Nigerian man created fake online profiles and entertained virtual romances and friendships for years – then he stole their money, US federal authorities said.

The man admitted that since 2017, he has received more than US$360,000 (RM1.50mil) from people online, authorities said.

Now, he’s headed to prison.

Augustine Amechi, 24, a Nigerian man who now lives in Huntington, West Virginia, was sentenced on March 7 to one year and one day in prison for receipt of stolen money, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of West Virginia.

He pleaded guilty to the charge in November 2021 after being indicted in April 2021 on two counts of wire fraud, one count of unlawful monetary transactions and one count of receipt of stolen money, according to court documents obtained by McClatchy News.

Amechi, also known as Augustine Chukwu-Noe, Augustine A Chukwu Noe, and Augustine Chukwu, admitted to stealing money from at least 37 victims, court documents show.

Abraham J. Saad, Amechi’s attorney, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from McClatchy News.

From 2017 to 2020, Amechi, working with others, targeted and contacted people via email, text messaging, social media and online dating sites, according to court documents.

The man led them to believe he was in friendly, romantic or business relationships using different false identities before ultimately enticing them to send him money, court documents show.

Amechi said he received approximately US$108,601.92 (RM454,336) directly into his bank accounts, more than US$150,000 (RM627,525) in cash mailed in packages and about US$140,000 (RM585,690) in deposits from Zelle, authorities said.

Amechi also admitted he received money orders, gift cards and iPhones from packages mailed to his house, court documents show.

In one of the instances described by authorities, Amechi used a fake identity to lead one of the victims to believe they were in a three-year virtual romance during which he repeatedly convinced them to send him money for various fabricated reasons.

Authorities say he told one of the victims he had discovered a gold mine and needed money to ship gold back to the US where he would share his newfound wealth with them.

In another instance, Amechi led another victim who believed they were in a virtual romance to wire him US$20,000 (RM83,670) to pay off debt, court documents show.

Amechi also convinced one of the victims that they should invest US$1,000 (RM4,183) in Bitcoin through him, though the victim “never received any returns or profits for these bitcoin investments”, authorities said.

As part of his sentencing, he will owe restitution in the amount of US$192,762.19 (RM806,420), authorities said. – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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