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6 U.S Citizens, 1 Nigerian Sentenced to Prison over Online Fraud

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Funso Hassan

Funso Hassan

Six U.S. citizens and a Nigerian national were on Tuesday, sentenced to federal prison for their roles in online fraud schemes that distributed more than $40 million in counterfeit checks using ‘mystery shopper’ websites and ‘work from home’ scams. The criminal enterprise was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Funso Hassan, 27, an Oyo state indigene and Anthony Shane Jeffers, 44, of Maryville, Tennessee, were each sentenced to 10 years in prison. Ann Louise Franzen, 70, of Kiln, Mississippi; Gary Melvin Barnard, 64, of Palestine, Texas; Michele Gayle Fee, 55, of Stockton, California; Tanya Lynn Thomas, 52, of Turlock, California; and Shawn Ann White, 44, of Manteca, California, were each sentenced to five years in prison.

In addition to the prison sentences, U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola, Jr., of the Southern District of Mississippi sentenced each defendant to three years supervised release following completion of their sentences. Restitution to the victims for all defendants will be determined at a later date. The sentences are the maximum statutory penalty for the charges to which the defendants pleaded.

According to court documents, Hassan and Jeffers admitted in their April 12 guilty pleas to conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property along with use of mail and interstate facility to distribute proceeds of a racketeering activity. Franzen, Barnard, Fee, Thomas and White previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit identity theft and theft of government property.

All seven defendants were members of a large-scale international financial fraud conspiracy that included romance scams through online dating sites, check fraud, secret shopper schemes and personal assistant work-from-home schemes.

Some of the defendants started as romance scam victims only later becoming knowing participants in the counterfeit check fraud. Victims were sent checks with mystery shopper and personal assistant instructions.

The checks, which were counterfeit, would bounce after the victims transmitted proceeds to various locations in the United States which were then layered for transmission to Nigeria. Victims then owed their banks the amount of checks and often hundreds of dollars in bank fees.

Credit: ICE

9 Comments

  1. GANNY OGUNSHAKIN

    September 10, 2016 at 12:06 am

    They all got what they deserved.

  2. Kelzi

    September 10, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Nigerians, why? Bad news everytime

  3. Err

    September 10, 2016 at 12:56 am

    Charles Nze that duped a cancer patient of millions of Naira is so sad,no sense of compassion from our people again,just anything for money.

  4. Feedback

    September 10, 2016 at 2:41 am

    Dear Bellanaija,

    By posting only the image of the Nigerian involved, you are reinforcing the narrative that only Nigerians scam. If you were going to include pictures, you should have included picture of all the criminals. Anyone that reads this story will not remember the names of the others involved. Only the image of Funso Hassan will come up. I can understand why you would only include his picture (you are catering to a predominantly african reader base after all) but consider the message your delivery can reinforce at times

    Thank you.

    1
  5. Mystique

    September 10, 2016 at 7:56 am

    Only clicked to check if any of my Igbo brothers made the list.l but Alas it’s Oyo state this time. These are the people who make it difficult to carry a green passport.

    • Damilola

      September 10, 2016 at 3:00 pm

      Lol…when it comes to internet, online frauds Yoruba men win in that department. This is not funny though but it shows the deep wicked heart of Nigerians in general. And how money hungry, greed has eaten up the souls.

    • Oh puhleeze

      September 10, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      There’s nothing to LOL about Mystique’s very stupid comment. But you know how to form internet ninja when it has to do with your tribe. SMH! Silly thing

    • Eegor

      September 11, 2016 at 5:35 pm

      What kind of dumb comment is this. My darling you are part of what is wrong with Nigeria.

  6. no

    September 10, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Aargh, a Nigerian just had to be involved.

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