FBI chasing down Nigerian bank fraud ring


Yeah. I know. When I bumped into this story I thought the con artists were telephoning from Lagos.

The FBI is investigating a fraud ring accused of bilking several banks and customers — including San Antonio-based USAA and the former chief of staff of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond — out of at least $44 million…

The suspects are believed to have posed as customers to fraudulently withdraw money from bank accounts, including one at USAA that was tapped for $98,000.

“This case is linked to a larger $44 million case in Virginia,” said Erik Vasys, spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio. “It’s pretty significant.”

Authorities still are looking for Tobechi “Tobe” Onwuhara, the alleged mastermind. He’s under investigation in Seattle, where he once lived, and is alleged to lead a ring of people from Nigeria that accessed online databases to steal personal information for use in defrauding banks…

The ring targets victims who have a large balance in a home equity line of credit, and use stolen personal information to initiate transfer money to “mule” bank accounts…

According to Washington Examiner Web site, one of his victims was Robert Short, former chief of staff for Sen. Thurmond. “America’s Most Wanted” reported that Onwuhara flashed up to $50,000 at strip clubs, drove a Bentley, a Maserati and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. He even owned his own recording studio and started his own rap label, called SWAT Up Entertainment.

His fiancée, Precious Matthews, a Baylor alum, is among nine people charged in Virginia with Onwuhara. Matthews, of Miami, primarily is responsible for calling financial institutions and convincing them to wire transfer money out of victims’ accounts and laundering the proceeds, the affidavit said.

Hustling people over the phone requires very special talents. Like stupidity on the other end.