Spammer Convicted on Wire Fraud Charges — United States v. Diamreyan
[Post by Venkat]
United States v. Diamreyan, 09-cr-0260 (JCH) (D. Conn.) (April 16, 2010)
Earlier this year Okpako Mike Diamreyan was found guilty of wire fraud. The district court recently denied his motion for judgment of acquittal.
Diamreyan “was charged with devising a scheme to defraud known as an ‘advance fee.’” As the court describes it, this is a “scam . . . where a person asks an individual to pay an advance fee in order to obtain a larger sum of money, which the individual [victim] never receives.”
The government presented evidence that defendant used a Yahoo email account (firstname.lastname@example.org) for over ten years, and presented evidence of emails sent to victims, telephone calls made, and wire transfers which were initiated by the victims.
The stories about Diamreyan’s purported identity, the amount of money available, the reason it was tied up, the money needed to free it, and the name of the contact person changed from email to email, but the overall scam was the same. Frequently, Diamreyan would include his phone number (one of those listed on his visa application) in the email and ask people to contact someone by a different name at that number. For example, in one email, Diamreyan told the email recipient that he was in Sierra Leone, and his family’s $23.4 million was on consignment at the airport. He then asked the recipient to contact the airport director, Rev. Dr. Richard Camaro, to release the money from this consignment.
Defendant’s arguments in favor of a judgment of acquittal did not end up carrying the day.
Two things about the case struck me. First, people who respond to these emails (from email@example.com, no less) and transfer money to complete strangers in the hopes of receiving more money do in fact exist. Second, the amounts transferred were nominal. In this case, the amounts were between $50 and $250. (I’m curious as to what the government will end up arguing as a loss amount for sentencing purposes. I’m sure it will present some sort of projection of how much money defendant must have gained.) [Update: one of the filings contained a spreadsheet [link] which listed amounts transferred to defendant and to third parties. The amounts were more than “nominal”.]
Here’s the press release from the US Attorney’s Office: “Federal Jury Finds Nigerian Citizen Guilty of Charges Related to Internet ‘Advance Fee’ Fraud Scheme.” According to the press release he faces up to 20 years and a fine of up to $250,000. [I don't have a good frame of reference, but this seems absurdly high.] Also, not to make light of the plight of the victims, but you would think the government has bigger fish to fry?
Related: Two interesting radio programs on those who take matters in their own hands when dealing with internet scammers: (1) Xeni Jardin on NPR’s Day to Day: “Scam-Baiters’ Turn Tables on Would-Be Cons“; and (2) This American Life — Act two of Episode 363 (“Enforcers”): “Hanging in Chad.” Both programs reference “419 Eater“, a website that documents “scambaiting” (scamming the scammers).