Court delay for alleged 419 scammers

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Independent Newspapers

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Cape Town - As one of the Yahoo Boys – a gang of alleged scammers operating out of South Africa – prepares to face a grand jury in the US, 12 people alleged to be part of the syndicate are still in custody in Pretoria awaiting their bail hearing.

It has been a month since the 12 were nabbed by US Homeland Security agents and the Hawks Special Investigations Unit in Pretoria.

And while authorities in Gulfport, Mississippi, are eager for them to stand trial, extradition proceedings have slowed to a snail’s pace.

After three court appearances and just as many postponements, police said the group were in court this week, but the case had been put off until next Friday.

Piet Pieterse, the head of the police’s electronic crime unit, said the case was likely to take a while because the bail application was ongoing.

“Some new papers were submitted this week, but we will probably see the magistrate make a decision on the bail application at their next appearance,” he said.

The arrest of the group followed investigations dating back to 2011 when US authorities discovered scammers with ties to a South African syndicate were operating brazenly on their soil.

Among the people arrested during the operation was a South African woman and 11 Nigerian men.

They form part of a larger group of 20 who have been named as the Yahoo Boys.

This was one of many details revealed by US Homeland Security attaché Abraham Lugo.

The group’s other members were arrested in the US and Canada and are facing charges stemming from cyber, mass-marketing fraud schemes or “419 scams”.

According to charges filed by the US attorney’s office in Gulfport against Oluyitan Olagoke of Brooklyn, New York, they stand accused of buying bank account information from hackers, stealing money and then sending cash or goods to South Africa and Nigeria.

They are accused of enlisting unsuspecting people through work-at-home scams or fake online romances to obtain banking details which were used to send stolen money or fraudulently purchased goods to South Africa and Nigeria.

A grand jury of 23 will decide whether the evidence against Olagoke will stand up at trial.

The job of a grand jury is to analyse evidence and determine whether there is a solid case against the accused.

A similar fate awaits the rest of the group once they are extradited to the US.

kieran.legg@inl.co.za

Cape Argus


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