Nigerian or “419” Letter Fraud
“A sucker is born every minute.” (P.T. Barnum)
Fraud, a key component of international crime, uses deceit, breach of confidence and trickery for illicit gain. With the worldwide use of the Internet, the possibilities of fraud have grown exponentially.
The Nigerian Letter Fraud scheme, or the “419 scheme” (named for violating Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code), is defined by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service as a scam combining “impersonation fraud with . . . an advance fee scheme in which a letter [or email] sent from Nigeria offers the opportunity to share in millions of dollars the author – a self-proclaimed government official – is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria.” This persuasive letter then asks for personal financial information – bank name and account numbers, e.g. – in order to complete the transfer.
Nowadays 419-ers operate all over – not only in Nigeria but in Canada, England, Asia, Europe and the U.S. Evidence, compiled by the FBI and by international organizations such as INTERPOL, shows possible connections between 419 scam letters and drug trafficking, terrorist funding and money laundering. While the schemes often are generated overseas, frequently “local support” – armed with mailing lists or telephone numbers – actually do “the leg work.”
Millions and millions of dollars are lost annually. Some victims, along with losing large sums of money, have been lured to Nigeria (and elsewhere), where they have been imprisoned against their will and held for ransom, have simply gone missing, or have been murdered.
(Note: The Nigerian government is not sympathetic to any victims. In its view, these victims are complicit, conspiring to remove funds from Nigeria in a manner which breaks Nigerian law. Other countries, now equally affected, have been equally as blunt.)
You might think no one could be that dumb, but new victims of this fraud scheme happen every day. After years of experience, the FBI has collected facts and figures which show willing victims – those exhibiting a “propensity for larceny” – respond all the time.
What safeguards are there? Simple. Be skeptical of those who say they are Nigerian (or other foreign) officials asking for help in placing sums of money in overseas accounts. Don’t believe in any promises of big money. Guard personal information carefully. In short, use common sense.
What’s not so cut and dry is who the victims are. Yes, those who lost money are victims – voluntary victims. But others exist as well – those who desperately need sound criminal defense counsel. It is those charged with actively participating – often unwittingly or by coercion – in an international crime scheme.
If you have been charged with involvement in a Nigerian or 419 letter scheme, you need an experienced criminal defense. Fraud conviction can carry short- or long-term imprisonment in jail or prison, hefty fines and restitution to victims, and may even require lengthy mandatory community service or other alternative programs. At the very least, you may be socially branded by being associated with fraudulent activities – something which can affect your livelihood, your family and friends, your life.
The Blanch Law Firm, with its international criminal defense staff, is here to offer just that. We are dedicated to swiftly investigating the circumstances, unearthing the facts, and understanding our client. We believe the government, through its agencies, only presents part of the story. Its aggressive prosecution can often involve circumstantial or misleading evidence, or even false accusations. We want the whole story.
The Blanch Law Firm is well-prepared for the confusing arena of Nigerian Letter Fraud. We handle cases in the greater New York area, as well as in Los Angeles, Orange County and greater Southern California, and Houston, TX.
If you are the focus of Nigerian Letter Fraud criminal investigation – or if an investigation is pending – contact The Blanch Law Firm today by calling 212 736 3900. Initial consultations are complimentary and always confidential.