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OC man convicted in assorted fraud schemes

LOS ANGELES — An Orange County man was found guilty Wednesday of federal criminal charges for participating in an extensive multimillion-dollar conspiracy that perpetrated a wide variety of frauds, including business email fraud, romance scams, elder fraud and fraud using malware.

George Egwumba, 47, of Cypress, was convicted in Los Angeles of one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Members of the conspiracy — many of whom were based in Nigeria — used middlemen to connect with co-conspirators located in the United States, officials said. The U.S.-based middlemen assisted in receiving and laundering the proceeds of the frauds either through U.S. bank accounts, money transmitting services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, or cryptocurrency, according to evidence presented at the seven-day trial.

In exchange, the middlemen and those who assisted with money laundering received a percentage of the fraudulently obtained funds, evidence showed.

Princewell Duru, 33, of Sacramento, was also convicted at trial with Egwumba.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner scheduled an Oct. 17 sentencing hearing, at which time both defendants will face up to 22 years in federal prison.

At the center of the conspiracy were Valentine Iro, 33, of Carson, Chukwudi Igbokwe, 41, of Gardena — both Nigerian citizens — and Chuks Eroha, 41, who is believed to have fled to Nigeria in 2017, shortly after the FBI executed a search warrant in the case.

This trio of middlemen connected the fraudsters with the money launderers, sometimes with other intermediaries, and often used the same bank accounts for laundering funds. Iro and Igbokwe have pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case.

Egwumba acted as another middleman, receiving bank account information from Iro and Eroha to pass to other conspirators, and also worked to commit fraud himself by using malware and other cybercrime tools. Egwumba exchanged text messages with Iro and Eroha, in which he asked for and received bank account information that could be used to receive stolen money.

Federal prosecutors said the conspiracy involved the laundering of at least $6 million in fraudulently obtained funds and the attempted theft of at least an additional $40 million.So far, prosecutors have secured 19 guilty pleas in the case. Additional defendants have been arrested in Nigeria, and others are believed to be at large, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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