Four Nigerians charged over alleged $3 million love scam in Australia

A Nigerian man has been charged with defrauding almost $3 million through an alleged romance, identification and business scam he was running from inside Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre.

Police alleged that Fisayo Oluwafemi, 43, was the kingpin of a four-person strong crime syndicate that has defrauded various small business owners, identity theft victims and would-be lovers of millions since the start of the year.

Police say that Mr Oluwafemi ran the scam from inside the immigration detention facility by using 16 different mobile phones.

The syndicate’s various activities allegedly involved romance scams, sending emails pretending to be from accounts payable, stealing identities and the fraudulent sale of products.

He was arrested inside Villawood Detention Centre on Thursday morning and charged with knowingly directing the activities of a criminal group, two counts of dealing with the proceeds of crime and possessing identity information to commit an offence.

He will appear in Bankstown Local Court on Friday after he was refused bail by police.

Mr Oluwafemi’s arrest comes after three other alleged syndicate members were apprehended by police under Strike Force Woolana.

Police arrested 36-year-old Nigerian national Harriette Bangura last Tuesday and charged her with laundering $500,000 that police allege she obtained through fraudulent business emails.

Officers have since seized a Land Rover suspected to be the proceeds of crime, as well as mobile phones, documents and SIM cards from her Kingswood home and a Hoxton Park storage unit.
She was charged with 11 counts of dealing with the proceeds of crime and was granted bail by Central Local Court to re-appear in November.

Officers also raided a Chester Hill home and arrested two other Nigerian nationals for their alleged roles in the scam last Wednesday.

A 20-year-old man, who police say helped launder $90,000 through fraudulent business emails, was arrested at home and charged with seven counts of recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime and an identity theft offence.

A woman, also 20, was charged with knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime. Police will allege that she was involved in the laundering of $17,000 obtained through business email compromise.

Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Arthur Katsogiannis, said people need to be vigilant.

“While there are many variables, generally, the perpetrators will ‘spoof’ or compromise corporate executive or employee email accounts and send email requests to an accounts payable employee for an electronic funds transfer,” he said.

“Staff should be suspicious about these types of requests, and if they take the time to verify the authenticity of the email, whether it be via phone or a fresh email, they can potentially prevent the compromise.

Australian Border Force Detention Operations Commander Bill Ries said the incident proved detainees shouldn’t be allowed access to mobile phones.

“We know phones can be used to coordinate escape efforts, as a commodity of exchange, to facilitate the movement of contraband, to convey threats and, in this case, to organise significant criminal activity outside our centres.

“The continued use of phones in detention poses a significant threat to our staff, to detainees and the broader community.”

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