Nigeria’s antigraft agency says a Nigerian who fled to his homeland after being accused of defrauding dozens of lawyers and law firms has been extradited to the U.S. where he faces scam allegations worth more than $31 million.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission spokesman, Femi Babafemi, said on Friday that Emmanuel Ekhator was handed over to U.S. marshals in New York City on Thursday.
The anti-graft body’s chief, Farida Waziri, said “With the latest extradition, the message should be clear to anyone who travels abroad to commit crime and run back home to hide that Nigeria is no longer safe for them. We will get them and hand them over to face the law.”
Charging documents from the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania show that Ekhator and others are accused of mail and wire scams using bank accounts in South Korea, Singapore and Japan.
Federal prosecutors say the complicated scam involved multiple players, with a fraudster calling a U.S. or Canadian law firm posing as someone usually in Asia who needed to collect a debt from a person or organization based in North America. Another scammer poses as the debtor and agrees to pay off the debt using a fake check.
The law firms or lawyers collect the fake check, which gets validated by a third scammer posing as a bank employee over the telephone. Before the victims realize the check is fake, they’ve already used their own money to pay the fake settlement amount to their supposedly Asia-based client.
According to the prosecutors, they succeeded in extorting more than $31 million dollars from more than 80 lawyers and law firms.
Court records show Ekhator has yet to be assigned a lawyer. He remained in custody on Friday.