eight Nigerians have been arrested in Cape Town, South Africa and charged to court.
The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that they were operating from Cape Town to commit scams against Americans.
Seven leaders of the Cape Town Zone of the Neo Black Movement of Africa, also known as “Black Axe,” and an eighth man who conspired with a Black Axe leader, were charged with multiple federal crimes, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael Honig said.
They were charged in Trenton City federal court in New Jersey even as the U.S. authorities await their extradition.
In Cape Town, the defendants had their initial appearances in court today and are awaiting extradition to the United States on the charges.
The defendants, who are being tried by U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp, were named as: Perry Osagiede, aka Lord Sutan Abubakar de 1st, aka Rob Nicolella, aka Alan Salomon, 52;
Enorense Izevbigie, aka Richy Izevbigie, aka Lord Samuel S Nujoma, 45; Franklyn Edosa Osagiede, aka, Lord Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, aka, Edosa Franklyn Osagiede aka Dave Hewitt. aka, Bruce Dupont, 37.
Others are Osariemen Eric Clement, aka, Lord Adekunle Ajasi, aka, Aiden Wilson, 35; Collins Owhofasa Otughwor, aka, Lord Jesse Makoko, aka, Philip Coughlan, 37 and Musa Mudashiru, aka Lord Oba Akenzua, 33, all are originally from Nigeria.
They are charged by superseding indictment with wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, spanning from 2011 to 2021.
One defendant remains at large.
Perry Osagiede, Franklyn Osagiede, Clement, and Izevbigie are also charged with wire fraud. Perry Osagiede, Franklyn Osagiede, and Otughwor are charged with aggravated identity theft.
Toritseju Gabriel Otubu, aka “Andy Richards,” aka “Ann Petersen,” 41, also originally from Nigeria, is charged by separate indictment with wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering conspiracy, spanning from 2016 to 2021.
“Foreign nationals who think they can hide in another country or in cyberspace while preying on our citizens need to know one thing,” Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said.
“The FBI has a global footprint and will use every resource available to protect the American people.
The strong working relationship among our federal and international law enforcement partners allows us to reach across geographical boundaries. In other words, anyone who thinks they can avoid American justice simply by operating outside the United States should rethink their strategy.”
According to documents filed in these cases:
The Nigerians Perry Osagiede, Izevbigie, Franklyn Osagiede, Clement, Otughwor, and Mudashiru (the “Black Axe defendants”) were all leaders of the Neo Black Movement of Africa, also known as “Black Axe,” an organization headquartered in Benin City, Nigeria that operates in various countries.
The Black Axe is organized into regional chapters known as “zones,” and the defendants were all leaders within the Cape Town, South Africa, Zone. Perry Osagiede founded the Cape Town Zone of Black Axe and worked as its zonal head, along with Izevbigie. The Black Axe defendants and other members of Black Axe took part in, and openly discussed, fraud schemes amongst their membership.
According to the indictment, from at least 2011 through 2021, the Black Axe defendants and other conspirators worked together from Cape Town to engage in widespread internet fraud involving romance scams and advance fee schemes.
“Many of these fraudulent narratives involved claims that an individual was traveling to South Africa for work and needed money or other items of value following a series of unfortunate and unforeseen events, often involving a construction site or problems with a crane.
“The conspirators used social media websites, online dating websites, and voice over internet protocol phone numbers to find and talk with victims in the United States, while using a number of aliases.
“The conspirators’ romance scam victims believed they were in romantic relationships with the person using the alias and, when requested, the victims sent money and items of value overseas, including to South Africa.
“Sometimes, when victims expressed hesitation in sending money, the conspirators used manipulative tactics to coerce the payments, including by threatening to distribute personally sensitive photographs of the victim.
“The conspirators used the bank accounts of victims and individuals with U.S.-based financial accounts to transfer the money to South Africa. On certain occasions, the conspirators convinced victims to open financial accounts in the United States that the conspirators would then be permitted to use themselves.
In addition to laundering money derived from romance scams and advance fee schemes, the conspirators also worked to launder money from business email compromise schemes. In addition to their aliases, the conspirators used business entities to conceal and disguise the illegal nature of the funds.
Otubu also engaged in romance scams and used the victims of those scams to obtain money and to launder the proceeds of business email compromises back to South Africa.
Otubu conspired with an individual identified in the criminal complaint as Co-conspirator 1, who was a founding member and leader of the Cape Town Zone of Black Axe.
The wire fraud conspiracy and wire fraud charges each carry a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.
The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction, whichever is greatest.
The aggravated identity theft charges carry a mandatory term of two years in prison.