NIGERIA -The US authorities have charged 80 people, “most of whom are Nigerian nationals”, with participating in a conspiracy to steal millions of dollars, prosecutors say. They are accused of using business email fraud schemes and romance scams to con victims - many of them elderly. Police have so far arrested 14 suspects across the US, 11 in Los Angeles alone.

The authorities say it is one of the “largest cases of its kind in US history”. The FBI investigation is a major step to disrupt criminal networks, US Attorney Nick Hanna said.

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“This case is part of our ongoing efforts to protect Americans from fraudulent online schemes and to bring to justice those who prey upon American citizens and businesses,” he added. The FBI started investigating the case in 2016 in a single bank account but it later extended to cover multiple victims in the US and around the world.

All the 80 defendants have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft, the US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California said in a press release.