Nigerian email scam nets $1.6 million but ends in tears all round
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The Nigerian millionaire email scam has become such a parody of itself that it is almost impossible to believe anyone ever actually falls for it. We all know the drill. Random email drops into your inbox purporting to come from an African millionaire or a grieving yet practical relative of said magnate. In clumsily formal English that is halfway between laboured pomposity and colonial anachronism, the email briefly describes the difficulty your honest supplicant is having getting a few million out of the country. It then goes on to say that tales of your shining virtue have spread globally and being such an upstanding person – you and you alone can be trusted with the temporary storage of these fabled riches. Slight snag though – need a quick hundred grand to grease the wheels – but we’ll cut you in for a cool five million once it’s all good. Comical yes. But convincing?
Well the wonderfully named Blessed Marvelous Herve managed to con an American real estate broker and his girlfriend out of a combined $1.6 million by pretending to be the son of Joseph Kabila, the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Basic research seems not to have been something the mug – sorry victim was concerned with – as any elementary Google search would have instantly blown the gaff!
The scheme started in 2005, when Herve approached the real estate agent about buying multiple multi-million dollar homes for the Congolese president. The snag was that the government had seized more than $43 million in assets. Herve needed money for items like bulletproof limousines ($30,000) to make sure the deal went forward.
He offered promissory notes totaling $1.5 million, a "complimentary letter" from a US senator, awards of recognition from San Francisco, and his daughter's birth certificate, among other documents.
Herve proceeded to sting him for $635,000 for living expenses, federal trials, a room at the Four Seasons, and federal incarceration – none of which had any basis in reality. When the agent went bankrupt, Herve moved onto his girlfriend, who gave him more than $970,000 for fake prison medical care, fake prison transportation, and fake IRS debts. Bankruptcy soon engulfed her too and Herve finally told them that he was being transferred to a prison in Puerto Rico, and then onto the Congo, where his father would kill him.
Herve was arrested for wire fraud on Wednesday in San Francisco and faces up to 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.