Eight foreign nationals, who were arrested for allegedly duping women out of R100 million, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
Perry Osagiede, Enorense Izevbiege, Franklin Edosa Osagiede, Osariemen Eric Clement, Collins Owhofasa Otughwor, Musa Mudashiru, Prince Ibeabuchi Mark, and Toritseju Gabriel Otubu were arrested on Tuesday by the Hawks, with the assistance of the FBI, Interpol, and the US Secret Service, for their involvement in internet scams, money laundering, and international wide scale financial fraud, in Cape Town.
The operations was initiated based on the Mutual Legal Assistance from Central Authorities of the US, that was approved by the Republic of South Africa.
Spokesperson for the Hawks in the Western Cape Zinzi Hani said a multi-disciplinary team worked to arrest the suspects, consisting of the Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Unit, Crime Intelligence (CI), K9, National Intervention Unit, Special Task Force (STF), Criminal Record Center, and metro police in Cape Town.
The group are alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate, originating abroad.
“It is alleged that these suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees, and believed that they were in a genuine romantic relationship, but were scammed out of their hard-earned money.
“The suspects used social media websites and online dating websites to find and connect with their victims.
“Other modus operandi used by the suspects include business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order to change banking details.
“They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites.
“Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob-stories about why they needed money – taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then siphoned money from victims’ accounts, in excess of R100 million.
“The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared,” Hani said.
During their appearance at court, the court heard that there is a pending extradition application by the US government, where warrants for their arrests have been issued.
Spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Eric Ntabazalila said the warrants of arrest for the group were issued in New Jersey and Texas.
“In America, they are charged with: wire fraud conspiracy in violation of Title 18, US Code, Section(s) k1349; wire fraud in violation of Title 18, US Code, Section(s) 1343 and 2, money laundering conspiracy in violation of US Code Section(s) 1956(h,) and aggravated identity theft in violation of Title 18, US Code, Section(s) 1028A and 2,” Ntabazalila said.
He said the fraudulent activities of the group caused at least $6.8 million in losses to US citizens, and others around the world.
Ntabazalila said the group intends on applying for bail, pending the extradition application, however, the state will be opposing bail as it believes they are a flight risk.
“They are likely to tamper with evidence electronically and some are in the country illegally, as their passports expired,” he added.
The bail application has been set down in court for October 26 and October 28.