Feds give a royal crackdown to 'Nigerian Prince' email scams

The U.S. Justice Department has indicted 80 individuals who are accused of conducting a colossal business email phishing and money laundering scam many of which came from alleged "princes of Nigeria."

Raids were carried out Thursday in Los Angeles and 11 people were arrested according to Thom Mrozek, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

U.S. Attorney Nicola T. Hanna said the investigation was a measure aimed at protecting both citizens and businesses from email scams and identity theft. This includes the elderly who often fall victim to cyber fraud ploys. According to data from the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker, Americans lost over $700,000 collectively last year.

“Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims,” Hanna said. “This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators—no matter where they reside—and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.”

Outside of the California arrests, the remaining defendants are said to be foreign nationals -- several believed to be from Nigeria, according to authorities. The African nation has been a hotbed for email phishing scams for years, so much so, it’s been commonly called the “Nigerian prince” scam.

It’s not clear whether the Nigerian government will extradite the individuals in custody to the U.S., however, it has occurred in the past thanks to an extradition and criminal assistance treaty between both nations.

Based on records form The United States Attorney’s Office in the District of North Dakota, a 47-year-old citizen of Nigeria was extradited from Canada to the U.S. in March for a multi-million dollar fraud scheme.