More than 100 members of an international crime ring operate out of the Atlanta suburbs, according to police in Gwinnett County.
"They're very slick. They're very smooth. They're able to talk people out of money," said Major Don Woodruff of the Duluth Police Department.
Woodruff said detectives have traced a number of different scams in which Americans lost money back to people living and working in Gwinnett County.
A widow from St. Louis said she was duped out of $31,000 after trying to help a man she had met on a dating website six months earlier.
"I was vulnerable," said the victim. "I believed he really cared about me and I started to have feelings for him.
The victim said she chatted over the phone and web camera with the man, whom she now believes was an actor hired to steal her money.
She wired money after the man told her he was stuck at the Toronto airport and needed cash to get equipment through customs.
"I was an idiot," said the victim who lost another $55,000 after the scammers created an e-mail account in her name and asked her bank wire funds.
Duluth police said some of the victim's money was sent to a bank account controlled by Chazek Investment, LLC on McCall Drive, Doraville. The company is registered to Charles Ezeoke, whom police said is from Nigeria.
Ezeoke is one of three Nigerians living in the Atlanta area who are calling the shots in the crime ring that spans two continents and has raked in more than $13 million, according to Woodruff.
Uwabunkeonye Nwokoro, of Dacula, who goes by the nickname "Smart," is one of the other alleged ringleaders. Duluth Police said Nwokoro was present when they arrested Ikechukwu Henry Nwaiwu last year on theft charges.
Nwaiwu, of Duluth, was charged with operating dating and sweepstakes scams that duped two victims in Minnesota and Pennsylvania out of more than $50,000.
It's possible the crime ring could have been thwarted three years ago when Nwaiwu and 30 others were arrested for their roles in what Duluth police considered a financial fraud ring. Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter dropped the charges against the defendants for insufficient evidence.
Woodruff said his department continues to investigate the crime ring and expects to make more arrests.
For more information about how to spot scams go to www.lookstoogoodtobetrue.com.
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