SLIDELL, La. (WGNO) — Louisiana police have arrested a 67-year-old Slidell man accused of serving as a go-between for an international syndicate running a “Nigerian prince” email scheme following an 18-month investigation.
Michael Neu — who is neither Nigerian nor a prince — has been charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering.
Neu helped shuttle fraudulently obtained money to his co-conspirators, some of whom actually do live in Nigeria, according to the Slidell Police Department.
The ubiquitous scheme, which begins when an email is sent to an unsuspecting recipient the scammers claim has been named as the beneficiary in a will, is designed to collect personal information that is then used to steal money and identities online.
The scheme nets millions of dollars each year and is difficult to track since many of the participants operate outside of the United States, according to the SPD.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said. “Never give out personal information over the phone, through e-mail, cash checks for other individuals, or wire large amounts of money to someone you don’t know. 99.9 percent of the time, it’s a scam.”
Other versions of the scam involve people claiming to represent law enforcement agencies or utility companies.
To avoid identity theft scams like this, always ask for a callback number and verify the identity of the person attempting to collect the information, according to the SPD.