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US Charges Eight Nigerians For Internet Scams, Money Laundering …Wants Extradition From S’Africa

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Seven Nigerian 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, have been charged with multiple federal crimes relating to Internet scams they perpetrated from South Africa.
The Acting United States Attorney, Rachael A. Honig for the District of New Jersey, announced the charges, yesterday, in a statement by the US State Department, and made available to The Tide in Port Harcourt.
The statement said that, “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; 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 originally from Nigeria, 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.
“Americans are too often victimized by criminal organizations located abroad who use the internet to deceive those victims, defraud them of money, and, many times, persuade the victims to wittingly or unwittingly assist in perpetuating the fraudulent schemes,” Honig said.
“The public should be on guard against schemes like these. And, more importantly, anyone thinking of engaging in this kind of criminal conduct should understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our partners will find them and bring them to justice, no matter where they are.
“Transnational organized criminal networks continue to victimize U.S. citizens and threaten the financial infrastructure of the United States,” U.S. Secret Service Office of Investigations Assistant Director, Jeremy Sheridan said.
“The Secret Service, alongside our partner agencies, works tirelessly in its global investigative mission to dismantle these groups and arrest those who lead them. We are proud to be a part of the international law enforcement mission to combat all forms of financial crimes and thank all those involved in this investigation. The U.S. Secret Service extends its gratitude the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service for its assistance.
“Foreign nationals who think they can hide in another country or in cyberspace while preying on our citizens need to know one thing,” FBI 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: 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.
“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, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment imposed on a defendant.”
Seven defendants were arrested in South Africa, last Tuesday by the South African Police Service.
“Those defendants had their initial appearances in South Africa and are awaiting extradition to the United States on these charges. Both cases are before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court.
“Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark; and the FBI Legal Attaché Office at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, under the direction of Legal Attaché Jennifer Snell Dent; special agents of the U.S. States Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Mark McKevitt in Newark, Special Agent in Charge John Hamby in Seattle, Resident Agent in Charge Michael K. Burgin in the Pretoria Resident Office and Special Agent in Charge Jason Kane of the Criminal Investigative Division, with the investigation leading to the charges.
“Honig also thanked the South African Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) HAWKS, the South African Police Service, the South African National Prosecuting Authority & Asset Forfeiture Unit, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development for the Republic of South Africa, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs, and INTERPOL for their valuable assistance in this case.
“This case is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) Priority Transnational Organized Crime (PTOC) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF.
“The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jamie L. Hoxie and Vera Varshavsky of the Cybercrime Unit in Newark.
“Anyone who believes they may be a victim may visit https://www.justice.gov/usao-nj/blackaxe for information about the case, including a questionnaire for victims to fill out and submit.
“The charges and allegations contained in the indictments are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty,” the statement added.

By: Nelson Chukwudi

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Celebrate, We’re Liberated, Fubara Tells IYC …Says Detractors Now Victims Of Their Ploys

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has acknowledged with delight the assurances of brotherly support from the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), and urged Ijaw Nation to key into the on-going celebration of the liberation the State is enjoying now.
Governor Fubara gave the charge while addressing the national and state leadership of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), who were on solidarity walk to Government House in Port Harcourt yesterday.
The solidarity walk was staged as part of activities to celebrate the heroic exploits of the late Major Isaac Adaka Boro, 56 years after his death, which is observed on 16th May every year.
Governor Fubara noted that Major Isaac Adaka Boro genuinely stood for equity, justice, and fair play, and pursued his course to ensure liberation for the Ijaw people and their clans.
The Governor emphasised that every genuine Rivers man is a liberator, adding that he was delighted to receive them on such auspicious day to re-enact the common purpose of liberation that they shared.
Governor Fubara, who thanked the large crowd for their assurances of being available to respond to his call and stand by him, should the need arise, said there would not be any need to cause disruption of the peace, as according to him, the enemies of the State have been defeated already.
He said, “Because he stood for that unique thing, even after his death, we still celebrate him because he was a liberator.
”Every Rivers man, it doesn’t matter whether you are Ijaw or upland, the most important thing is that every genuine Rivers man must be a liberator.
”And I’m happy that you have come here today. I have also received you because we have one common purpose: to liberate our dear State. We are not going back on that.”
Governor Fubara said: “I am happy that you’ve told me this morning that when I call on you, you will respond. But there is nothing to call on you for. Because we have already defeated them.
”By the special grace of God, what they thought that they would have done to us while we were celebrating our one year in office, they are the ones sleeping with their two eyes open. It shows that we have the Ijaw blood. And what is that blood: it is the blood of action; less talk, more action.”
Governor Fubara appealed to Ijaw youths to conduct themselves peacefully as they celebrate the Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day, and also be good ambassadors of the entire Ijaw Nation.
He emphasised that it should be done in the same spirit that had enveloped the State now celebrating victory over his political detractors.
Governor Fubara promised to support the IYC Eastern Zone to have a befitting Secretariat in Rivers State.
In his speech, the National President of IYC, Mr Jonathan Lokpobiri, described the day as historic because Ijaw people were meeting with their Governor on Major Isaac Adaka Boro Day of memorial.
Mr Lokpobiri said it affirms that the gods of Ijaw people are at work, and warned all detractors to retrace their steps, and allow the Governor, who has the full mandate of the people, to discharge his duties to Rivers people.
He commended Governor Fubara for his courage, bravery and commitment to good governance, insisting that his struggle and triumph resonates with the hope of all Ijaw people.
On his part, Chairman of IYC, Eastern Zone, Mr Tamuno Kpokpo, clarified that their visit is not to signify an ethnic war but to lend support in protection of the interest and continuous development of Rivers State.
Mr Kpokpo said IYC will stand to resist anybody or group of persons anywhere who dare to cause any distraction of governance anymore in the State, and appealed that the Governor be allowed to govern the State peacefully.

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Ex-Rivers Lawmakers Have Forfeited Their Seats, PDP Insists …Denies Pressure To Restore Ex-Lawmakers

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The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has dismissed claims that it was under pressure to compromise its position on the status of former members of the Rivers State Assembly who forfeited their seats on account of their decision to dump the party.
National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Hon. Debo Ologunagba, said this in a statement in Abuja, yesterday.
He declared that nothing will make the party change its position on the vacation of seats by former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly who defected from the PDP to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Ologunagba said, “The Party also clarifies that it is not under pressure from any quarters to compromise its position in Court wherein it had already clearly stated that the former Rivers State lawmakers are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from December 11, 2023, when they publicly announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.
“This clarification is a refusal of a mischievous report in a section of the social media falsely claiming that there are plots to compromise the party’s position and provide an unattainable lifeline to the former members of the Rivers State House of Assembly to return to their seats which they have constitutionally vacated.
“Our party therefore stands by its position that the affected members have since lost their seats in the Rivers State House of Assembly having arrogantly committed an unpardonable constitutional breach.”
He further stated that, “For the avoidance of doubt, the PDP in its Counter Claim by its National Legal Adviser, Kamaldeen Ajibade SAN in Suit No: FHC/ABJ/CS/1681/2023 filed at the Federal High Court Abuja stated clearly that the former Rivers State lawmakers “are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly from December 11, 2023, when they publicly announced their defection from the PDP to the APC.
“For emphasis, the PDP in the said Suit seeks among others the following Declaration/Orders against the former Rivers State lawmakers.
“A Declaration that by provisions of Section 109 (1)(g) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the seats of the plaintiffs have been vacant since 11th December 2023 when the plaintiffs announced their defection to the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“A Declaration that the plaintiffs are no longer members of the Rivers State House of Assembly having defected to the All Progressives Congress (APC) on 11th December 2023.
“An Order directing the first defendant (INEC) to conduct bye-elections in the respective constituencies of the plaintiffs in compliance with the provisions of the laws.
“An Order of perpetual injunction restraining the plaintiffs from parading themselves and/or further parading themselves or from performing or further performing the functions and duties of members of Rivers State House of Assembly…”
Ologunagba further said, “Happily, there are plethora of Judicial decisions from the highest court in our country in support of the position taken by our party.”

 

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Don’t Hurt Anybody, Else You Won’t Be Forgiven, Fubara Warns LG Chairmen …As Mbata Flags Off 33.5km Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road

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Rivers State Governor, Sir Siminalayi Fubara, has warned that any out-going local government chairman in the State who hurts any well-meaning Rivers person will not be forgiven.
The governor pointed to an event that happened on Tuesday, where miscreants attacked some persons who attended the inauguration of the Aleto-Ogale-Ebubu-Eteo Road project, on their way home, and said such show of animosity was utterly needless.
Fubara gave the warning at Egbeda community, venue of the ceremony for the official flag-off of the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project in Emohua Local Government Area, yesterday.
The governor, according to a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Nelson Chukwudi, said, “Let me also say this here. When we left Aleto the other day, some people went there and attacked our people. There is no need for that.
“Nobody has the monopoly of violence. I should even be the one who should come out and shout that I will do this and that. But I don’t need to do that because both sides belong to me. I have taken oath to protect all.
“So, I am advising those people who call themselves local government chairmen: you have a few days in office. Please, conduct yourselves in a peaceful manner.”
Fubara drew the attention of the local government chairmen to the reality of life after office, which should help them to become more circumspect.
He said, “Politics will come, politics will go, but we will still live our lives. Let nobody deceive you, if you deliberately hurt anybody, because of expressing your useless support, nobody will forgive you. You will pay for it.
“So, I’m begging everyone, please, conduct yourselves. As a matter of fact, I am the one that is most hit, and abused as a Governor who doesn’t know what to do with power. Is it not? Have I said anything?
“So, please, just endure until when you finish, then you go your way. I don’t want trouble. I don’t want anything that will bring any problem in this State. I know what they want to do, but we will not give them the opportunity”.
Fubara further said: “We have made our promise to our leader, who happens to be the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, that we will take the path of peace and that is the part we are taking.
“We will continue to take that path. Don’t mind what they say. Don’t mind what they do. Peace remains the path to take. While taking the path of that peace, it does not mean that we won’t defend ourselves, or let me describe it this way: we will not just be like a tree seeing someone coming to cut it down, and won’t do anything. No, no no. We need to also protect ourselves in a lawful manner.”
Commenting on the project, Fubara said that what is being done is to let the world know that his administration means well for Rivers State, and was transparently accounting for every kobo that had been received.
Fubara explained that the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project would be funded with savings from the Internal Generated Revenue (IGR), adding that 50 percent of the total cost of N80.8billion has already been paid.
He said, “Why did we pay 50 percent? We understand the fluctuation of prices as a result of exchange rate uncertainties, and we don’t want to find ourself in a situation of too much variation. So, we sought EXCO approval, and EXCO approved that we should pay 50 percent, and we have done that.
“And, what is it that we are saying to the world? We are telling the people that we are transparent. That we are a Government that is ready to serve. We are a Government that thinks about the people first.
“This road is a 33.5kilometer road that has a bridge. It is a road that would connect Ikwerre, Emohua and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas.
“When this road is completed, commercial activities will become very easy, no more wasting of manhour on the road. And that shows that we are thinking about the people, and also caring for the well-being of the people.”
Fubara urged residents of communities in the three LGAs to support the contractor to deliver the project within the stipulated 24 months.
The governor said the contractor had already pledged to ensure the project was completed and ready for inauguration before his third year in office.
He said, “I know strongly, having confirmed the reputation of the contractor, I have no doubt that they will deliver. So, I want to thank everyone of you for your patient, continue to support us, we mean well for our people.
“This is not different from the Renewed Hope Agenda of Mr President. Our mission is not different from the mission of Mr President.
“Mr President’s mission is to give hope to our people. And we are here to give hope to the people of Ikwerre, Emohua and Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Areas, genuinely.
“Genuinely, not because we have any economic interest here, not at all. We are doing it as a service to our people. We have started our journey in showcasing our interest, wishes, and what we have done in the past one year.”
Flagging-off the project, Senator John Azuta Mbata, who represented Rivers East Senatorial District in the National Assembly, described the dual carriage road project as the type within the capacity of the Federal Government to award but now being done by Governor Fubara.
He said, “We are, indeed, extremely delighted to have a Governor of your calibre. We salute your leadership on this occasion. We salute your humanity on this occasion. We salute your humility on this occasion.
“We salute your propensity and preference for peace and tranquility. We are very delighted to be associated with your humble self and our very presence here today, I believe, makes the point that we are your supporters.
“We don’t have to talk too much about it. Anybody who is a politician understands that my standing here means I am making a grand political statement.”
Senator Mbata further said: “We are the face of the people that are behind, and we are many, millions of people, Rivers people, chiefs, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, and businessmen. We make the silent majority that are behind, supporting the effort of the Government to emancipate the people and to bring development to Rivers State.
“I want to take the opportunity to call on all and sundry, all our people, wherever you are, to give your utmost support to the Government because for the very first time, Government has moved away from the time when the Governor was seen as a tin god, a time when the Governor demanded worship, so to say; to a time when the Governor has become a symbol, a rallying point for the people.
“A rallying point for accountability of resources of our people. A rallying point for bringing all our people into the same boat. We are in an era where there is massive and extensive consultation going on. This is the order of the day, when nobody’s view is thrown away.”
On his part, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Works, Engr. Atemea Briggs, said the Elele-Egbeda-Omoku Road project is a state highway that will be connecting two separate Trunk-A federal roads.
He explained that it will be constructed as a dual carriageway with solar-powered street lights to provide associated benefits of improving the fortunes of the people who will be using the road.
Also speaking, General Manager of the contracting firm handling the project, Craneburg Construction Company, Mr Elie Aden, said the road is a 33.5KM dual carriageway, adding that it will have culverts, street lights and 99 meters long bridge.
He said that about 7KM length of work has already been accomplished, and promised that they will complete the project within agreed deadline.
In his welcome address on behalf of the communities, Chief Charles Bekee, recalled how the road, once reconstructed in 2001, collapsed a decade after, due to increased volume of vehicular traffic that plied the road.
Chief Bekee noted that the road remained deplorable for a long time until Governor Fubara graciously awarded the contract for the reconstruction, leading to the flag-off ceremony.
He assured that the benefiting communities in the three LGAs that the road traverses are already resolved to protect the project with high level of cooperation to give the contractor the impetus to achieve its mandate, adding that they will sustain unalloyed support of the people to the governor.

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