Citibank Sends Nigerian Scammer $27 Million

37-year-old Nigerian scammer Paul Gabriel Amos convinced Citibank officials to wire him $27 million belonging to Ethiopia. Rather than go with the usual Nigerian nom de plumes like prince or will executor, Famous Amos pretended to be an official with the National Bank of Ethiopia. Amos forged “official-looking” documents that confirmed his status with the central bank and instructed Citibank to await faxes telling them where to send the country’s cash.

There was also a list of officials who could be called to confirm such requests. The signatures of the officials appeared to match those in Citibank’s records and were accepted by Citibank, the complaint says.

In October, Citibank received two dozen faxed requests for money to be wired, and it transferred $27 million to accounts controlled by the conspirators in Japan, South Korea, Australia, China, Cyprus and the United States, the complaint says.

Citibank called the officials whose names and numbers it had been given to verify the transactions, prosecutors said. The numbers turned out to be for cellphones in Nigeria, South Africa and Britain used by the conspirators.

Citibank, in its investigation, later determined the package of documents had come via courier from Lagos, Nigeria, rather than from the offices of the National Bank of Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa.

The FBI arrested Amos when he tried to visit Los Angeles. Citibank sent the $27 million back to Ethopia and may soon form a support group with this guy.

Nigerian Accused in Scheme to Swindle Citibank [The New York Times]
(Photo: TheTruthAbout…)

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  1. TheRedSeven says:

    I have no sympathy for the Nigerian 419ers. But as far as scams go, I think this one may take the cake!

    Nigerians FTW!

    (Now give the money back. I don’t need an excuse for any US banks to ask for more bailouts!)

  2. B says:

    Glad to see CitiBank is taking good care of the bailout money.

    • BluePlastic says:

      @B: Yeah. If a customer had done such a thing, they’d leave them twisting in the wind.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        @BluePlastic: Hell, I’m surprised they actually returned the money to the owners. If past articles here are any indication, they seemed more likely to just somehow blame this on the account holder find a way to stick them with the bill.

        And there would have been at least 10 to 15 consumerist commenters who would have completely agreed with that policy.

  3. RodAox says:

    I find this so ironic words cannot express it….

    • BlondeGrlz says:

      @RodAox: Is it like rain on your wedding day? A free ride when you’ve already paid?

      • RedwoodFlyer says:

        @BlondeGrlz: For the Nigerian..the whole going to jail thing is like winning the lottery….and dying the next day!

        Good thing he didn’t fly to LAX via US Airways #1549…as the plane crashed down into the Hudson, he would have thought “well isn’t this nice?” since he waited his whole damn life to take that flight…

        On the plus side, their lack of food/drinks would mean that there’s a 0-percent chance of getting a black fly in Chardonnay…and no need to worry about how to use one of your 10,000 spoons as a knife!

        • Cyberxion101 says:

          @RedwoodFlyer: This, ladies and gentlemen, is how you take a joke too far. Luckily for RedwoodFlyer, it went from funny to unfunny and back again, though your mileage may vary.

    • BluePlastic says:

      @RodAox: It didn’t occur to them to call those numbers *before* they sent the money? D’oh.

      • BluePlastic says:

        @BluePlastic: D’oh to me. I see they did call before – I thought they called after. But shouldn’t they have done some checking to make sure the numbers were legit?

        I wonder what level the employees were who authorized all this.

  4. nospacesinmyname says:

    Fuckin’ bravo!

    we’re impressed

  5. wardawg says:

    Good thing it’s the bank’s job to make sure all the paperwork is legit… Next time someone else get’s taken by a 419 scammer and Citibank refuses to reverse the charge, they can just say “Remember that one time you sent $27 million to some guy in Lagos?”

  6. your new nemesis says:

    Wow. Just….wow.

  7. Rob Weddle says:

    There are no words. That man has cajones of cast iron.

  8. Skater009 says:

    Wow- looks like management at that bank has some form of mental illness. So time to replace all management :)

  9. aguacarbonica says:

    Having seen The International (which was awful, btw), the cynical part of me wonders if Citibank isn’t itself involved in a scam.

  10. Coles_Law says:

    Attention Internet: We need a phrase stronger than “Epic Fail”. Send submissions to Citibank.

  11. Hoss says:

    This is utterly inexcusable! International banking is handled through secured networks! Did the faxed docs say: “Sorry to reach you this way, our computer is down at the moment.”?

    • XTC46 says:

      @Hoss: You’re kidding right? Most companies WILL NOT except a digital copy of your signature for something like this, they require you to fax a form. Thats starting to change, as digitally signed emails (via Security Certificate) etc are improving the ability to authenticate a person, but its going to be a while until Faxes are gone.

  12. rugman11 says:

    Just a nitpick about the last line “Citibank sent the $27 million back to Ethopia.” Citibank credited Ethiopia with the money, but they’re still out the $27 million. It’s gone. The way it’s written makes it sound like they got the money back from the fraudsters and sent it to the right people but I don’t think that is what happened.

  13. mac-phisto says:

    the actual letter:

    Dear Citybancs,

    We are to requesting wire of our funds in the amount of USD$27 millon to the attatched listing of acounts. The enclosed check for US$50000,00 is meaning to cover any cost you would have to be incur to complete thsi transfer. Please send funds emmeidately as we are to needing them now.

    Thank you,
    Ethipoia

    seems perfectly legit to me.

  14. usa_gatekeeper says:

    So instead of begging for the account holder list at UBS, maybe the IRS should just retain Amos to get the list for them.

  15. morganlh85 says:

    I should send this Nigerian guy an email letting him know that he will inherit the fortune of his late distant relative,Prince Oompaloompa, if he just sends me a few thousand dollars in “taxes.”

  16. mac-phisto says:

    after reading the article, i find it incredible that a kid walking around with a dime bag of weed can be charged with a string of offenses that could land him in the clink for the rest of his life, but this guy is only being charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud.

    • jessedybka says:

      @mac-phisto: And when someone bungles the one trial for the one count, they don’t get charged at all. JUSTICE.

    • the_gank says:

      @mac-phisto: he’s going to Jail and after getting automagically deported back to Nigerian max prison.

      I’m sure he’ll get released for the gr8 job he managed to pull off… with an applaud…if u ask me.

      U buy ur way out with merit and not by Benjamins..

    • redkamel says:

      @mac-phisto: are you serious? a dime bag of MARIJUANA is a DANGER to the very fabric of society. Its a gateway drug…a gateway to IV heroin abuse by the age of 15!!

      this is only money! it can be easily replaced by the government or, thousands of clients overcharged by miniscule amouts. Kind of like in Superman III, except since the bank does it, no one will know.

      • deadspork says:

        @redkamel: Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN!

        Not to mention that smoking marijuana JUST ONCE can cause you to panic and hallucinate and believe you can fly and jump off a 10-story building and kill yourself because weed is just THAT DANGEROUS.

        Pbbblt.

  17. azntg says:

    Citi never sleeps… because they’re too busy wiring away money to fraudsters to their own demise.

  18. JollyJumjuck says:

    And this is why Citibank hiked their interest rates even for their good credit card customers. Gotta have someone else pay for their mistakes!

  19. mizmoose says:

    It almost makes me feel bad for the individuals who fall for these shenanigans to know that bank employees are just as dumb.

    Oh, wait, no it doesn’t.

  20. FuryOfFirestorm says:

    The staggering amount of butthurt caused by this fuckup is so overwhelming that I need some Preparation H and a padded seat with a hole in the middle.

  21. Blueskylaw says:

    Did the document look something like this?

    Is this the Western Union Security Form Citibank received?

  22. Ben King says:

    The fact that officials at Citi are so dumb really speaks volumes as to why we’re in this mess in the first place.

  23. FrankenPC says:

    I’m seeing a screenplay in the making.

  24. Snarkysnake says:

    “A Citigroup spokeswoman said: “We have worked closely with law enforcement throughout the investigation and are pleased it has resulted in this arrest. Citi constantly reviews and upgrades its physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to detect, prevent and mitigate theft. But we really fucked up this time. I mean we blew donkey and let these half assed amateur flim flam artists take us for ,what, $27 Million ? “It’s a damn good thing that Uncle Sucker has our back .”

    Okay, I made up that last part,but that is what the PR department should have said. Stupid bastards.

  25. kwsventures says:

    So, indirectly some of our taxpayer funded welfare bailout money that was given to Citi by the great congressional leadership ended up in Nigeria. That is the cherry on the sundae of the whole loser bailout madness.

  26. Erasmo Velez says:

    This is crazy. They need to ban cellphones and computers in Nigeria so that they can learn there lesson.

    • RedwoodFlyer says:

      @Erasmo Velez: Ban them? Who do you think we’re giving all the OLPCs to?

    • INsano says:

      @Erasmo Velez: We can’t protect stupid people from every possible scam. On that note, you should learn the difference between the English homonyms “There, their and they’re”.

      • Cyberxion101 says:

        @INsano: And you should learn that you might have come off like less of a douche if you had suggested that he proof-read his posts, rather than assuming that he doesn’t know the difference just because you don’t agree with what he’s saying. If can tell me with a straight-face that you’ve never mistyped, then you’re a fantastic liar.

        Also up for consideration is the possibility that maybe, just maybe, English isn’t his first language. So basically, acting like an anal-retentive, know-it-all prick isn’t always the smart thing to do, even if it does make you feel all tingly in the parts of your anatomy that you can’t even pay a woman to touch.

        • INsano says:

          @Cyberxion101: You’re right– it’s completely elitist to expect people to be able to compose two sentences they’re submitting at their leisure. Only native speakers make such lazy efforts at communication. Fail.

  27. monarchy says:

    Wow… is this really what my fees go towards. They wont let me deposit a check without a signature, but send $27 million away pretty much as easily haha

  28. Trencher93 says:

    Why couldn’t the US government think of this? It would have solved the banking crisis.

  29. varro says:

    If Citibank lost $27 million, they should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps! Why should taxpayers bail those losers out?

  30. ToddBradley says:

    While your run of the mill $10,000 lost to Nigerian scammers is probably lost for good, I have to think that when you lose $27M, there are certain individuals whom you can contract to retrieve your money using methods that aren’t legal in the US. For example, didn’t the company formerly called Blackwater just lose its Iraq contract? I’m sure for $1M up front and another $5M on completion, they might be willing to go find and recover the $27M. Heck, they might even bring the scammers to “justice” while they’re at it.

    • orlo says:

      @ToddBradley: Since Blackwater has a kind of monopoly, their fee would probably be 75% of the money recovered. Using government security for free is much more convenient. “Rendition” and “enhanced interrogation” are quite adequate.

  31. bohemian says:

    What a screaming lack of security.

    Stuffing money in your mattress or a coffee can in the back yard seems safer than one of the US major banks.

    I am sure they will be asking for another $27 million from the taxpayers Monday morning.

  32. sumgai says:

    This wasn’t a Nigerian scam. This is how American bank CEOs plan on getting around the TARP salary cap. It’s really Vikram Pandit’s own account they moved the money into.

  33. mannyv says:

    Wow, this is taking scamming to a whole new level. First Utah, now Citibank. Unbelievable.

    And remember, they only picked off one guy. The other guys are still out there, living it up!

    • the_gank says:

      @mannyv: the guy that got picked up prolly got his share already and bought his family and friends all kinds of luxury stuff. He knows what he’s into when he boarded that plane from Lagos to LA.

      He’s here for a business…only if I could tell u rightnow that these fucking scammers and retards work on computers 24/7 in cybercafes…..crafting their scamming tools all over the tubes….

  34. INsano says:

    OMFG! You are not a 20-year-old acne-ridden ignoramous…you are *were* one of the most powerful banks in the world!!!

  35. Dave Spathaky says:

    The scammers should be given jobs running the banks security systems. What a great job they have done exposing the flaws in the system.

  36. econobiker says:

    Basically this Nigerian scammer finally asked the question: “Why are we messing around with these middlemen – a bunch of stupid rich US citizens- for $100 to $10,000 at a pop? Why not go right to the money source?”

  37. ceez says:

    oh man this is so LOL…even the GENIUS bank people are falling for this…is there an end to this shenannigans?!?!

  38. failurate says:

    Given our current economic situation, why are we not at war with Nigeria?

    • Eliamias says:

      @failurate: They have oil and are not overtly anti-American. Plus with all the infighting they don’t need outside help for instability. But I’m a cynic.

  39. Justin Kingland says:

    I need a job….

  40. Animal says:

    Hats off to the Nigerians- they will scam anyone, anytime, anywhere> Although, to fall for for 419 scam, albeit on a far grander scale, defies belief. Wake up Citibank! this is Africa, not Europe!