Nigerian who allegedly scammed 80 law firms, lawyers out of $31M extradited to US

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A Nigerian man who fled to his homeland after being accused of defrauding dozens of lawyers and law firms of more than $31 million dollars has been extradited to the U.S., Nigeria’s anti-graft agency said Friday.

Emmanuel Ekhator was arrested in Nigeria’s Benin City by the country’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in August. He was handed over to U.S. marshals in New York on Thursday, said Femi Babafemi, the anti-graft body’s spokesman.

“With the latest extradition, ... the message should be clear to anyone who travels abroad to commit crime and run back home to hide that Nigeria is no longer safe for them,” Farida Waziri, the anti-graft body’s chief, said in a statement. “We will get them and hand them over to face the law.”

Court records show Ekhator has yet to be assigned a lawyer. He remained in custody on Friday.

Charging documents from the U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Pennsylvania show that Ekhator and others are accused of mail and wire fraud after using bank accounts in South Korea, Singapore, China and Japan to collect the stolen money.

Federal prosecutors say the complicated scam involved multiple players, with a fraudster calling a U.S. or Canadian law firm posing as someone usually in Asia who needed to collect a debt from a person or organization based in North America. Another scammer poses as the debtor and agrees to pay off the debt — using a fake check, authorities say.

The law firms or lawyers collect the fake check, which gets validated by a third scammer posing as a bank employee over the telephone. Before the victims realize the check is fake, they’ve already used their own money to pay the fake settlement amount to their supposedly Asia-based client.

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