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3 arraigned in Nigerian 'spam' e-mail scam

KABC-TV covers Los Angeles and Southern California.

March 8, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Three suspects were arraigned Tuesday morning in an international e-mail scam. A fourth suspect was already being held without bail.

Bright Amesi, 25, of Gardena, and Briceson Loving, 25, of Lawndale, and Erika Fletcher, 24, of Inglewood were arraigned Tuesday morning. The three pleaded not guilty and were ordered to stand trial later in the year.

The lead defendant in the case, Claudio Uche Dibe, 25, of Gardena, was already being held without bail. He was extradited from Canada. He has already pleaded not guilty.

Ten defendants in all have been indicted in the scam that claimed respondents would have access to millions of dollars from a Nigerian inheritance estate.

Those targeted in the scam were offered millions of dollars in inheritance money that the scammer claimed to have control of. The target would be required to wire a nominal fee to help transfer the funds. The target would then be progressively pushed for increasing amounts of money.

Victims were targeted by "spam" e-mails

Most victims of the scam were elderly. Some paid as much as $35,000.

The investigation into the scam was initiated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), after one of the fraudsters allegedly impersonated an IRS agent to convince a victim to pay fictitious taxes.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and each count of wire fraud carries a statutory maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.