A Nigerian, Emmanuel Ehkator, has been sentenced by a District Court Judge, Middle District of Pennsylvania in the United States to three years in prison for $11m fraud.
Ehkator, who was also investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for criminal conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, was ordered by the court to pay $11,092,028 “in restitution” to his victims.
Ehkator’s property in Canada and the “contents of several bank accounts” in Nigeria were also declared forfeited by Justice Yvette Kane.
A statement by the EFCC Head, Media and Publicity, Mr Wilson Uwujaren, said the commission had in August 2010, arrested 42–year-old Ehkator in Nigeria. He was subsequently extradited to the US a year after following his plea of guilt.
The statement said the prosecutor, Assistant US Attorney, Christy H. Fawcett, told the court that Ehkator was part of an “attorney collection scam” in which he would contact US and Canadian law firms by email.
It said Ehkator would claim to be individuals or businesses outside North America owed money by entities in the US and asked for legal representation to collect money.
The prosecutor had said, “Often, the prospective clients said the money owed came from a real estate transaction, tort claim, or divorce settlement. Once the law firm agreed to represent the out-of-country client, the law firm would be contacted by the US entity purportedly owing money with an offer to pay the client by cheque.
“The debtor company would advise the law firm to deposit the cheque in the law firm’s trust account, retain the law firm’s fee, and wire the remaining funds to accounts in Asia.”
It was learnt that after funds from the law firm’s trust account had been wired to the Asian bank, it would then be discovered that the cheque that had been mailed to the law firm was a counterfeit.
The counterfeit cheques, which appeared to be drawn on legitimate accounts from well-established financial institutions, often included a telephone number for the financial institution.
In an attempt to determine the validity of the cheque, lawyers would call the number only to reach another conspirator who would falsely verify the cheque.
Ehkator’s co-defendant, Yvette Mathurin, was said to have been charged for conspiracy and was awaiting extradition from Canada. Another co-conspirator, Kingsley Osagie, was arrested as he arrived in the Atlanta, Georgia area from Nigeria and was said to be currently awaiting trial in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
The United States Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Secret Service, the Toronto Police Services and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were said to be involved in the investigations into the wire fraud.
Ehkator’s involvement in the scheme was said to have made him responsible for losses of “more than $7m and up to $20m.”
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