While it is often the butt of jokes on late-night TV, most people are familiar with the "Nigerian Prince" email scam. Many of us hope that people haven't fallen for this silly scheme, but like all scams there are victims who believe the stories they are being told.
According to Louisiana's Police Department, Michael Neu is not connected to any African royalty.
After an 18-month investigation, authorities have found that this con artist has a prolific track record of swindling people out of money. The 67-year-old was arrested and charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering after serving as a middleman in a variation of the Nigerian prince scam that became so widely known.
The scam that Neu has been charged with running actually predates the days of dial up internet.
In one of the schemes, someone claims that a benefactor, often a Nigerian prince, has left you an inheritance and you are required to provide your bank information so that the funds could be transferred to you. Some iterations of the scam ask victims to send money that will be later reimbursed along with the funds. Needless to say, those funds don't exist.
Neu's arrest is actually an important milestone for authorities.
While the Nigerian prince scam has reached a certain level of cultural saturation, authorities are rarely able to catch the perpetrators involved in such a prolific scheme. Investigators were having a challenging time because it was "extremely difficult as many leads have led to individuals who live outside of the United States."
According to reports, some of the money was wired to Nigeria.
As early as 1989, business executives in Britain received the scam via Telex which said that in exchange for cash, a tanker of Nigerian crude oil "could have its cargo claimed for bargain prices." The fraud was then seen around the world when oil prices crashed in the 1980s along with Nigeria's national economy.
While he may have been caught, police are still warning people to be cautious of schemes similar to it.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," police chief, Randy Fandal, said in a statement. "Never give out personal information over the phone, through e-mail, cash checks for other individuals, or wire large amounts of money to someone you don't know. 99.9 percent of the time, it's a scam."
Source: New York Times