By Jason Pan / Staff reporter|Taipei Times|
Alleged members of a criminal ring comprised of six Taiwanese and foreigners who ran a “Nigerian scam” to cheat women out of millions of dollars over the past year have been arrested, Keelung authorities said on Wednesday.
According to the Taipei Times online, the main suspects, 61-year-old Huang Chang-jung (黃長榮) and 55-year-old US Liberia citizen Archie Boimah Richards, and four others were detained on Tuesday and questioned at the Keelung District Prosecutors’ Office few days ago.
This is the third time Taiwanese authorities have arrested Richards over suspected fraud in the past few years, prosecutors said, adding that it was long suspected that he operated as part of a criminal ring.
Members of the group, allegedly led by Richards with Huang’s help, specialized in the Nigerian scam and a variant known as the “black money scam,” the prosecutors said.
Nigerian scam is one name for an advance-fee fraud in which con artists offer victims a large sum of money in exchange for help to move cash or valuable assets out of the nation.
The black money scam involves swindlers showing what is purportedly a large stash of cash, which has been dyed to avoid detection by authorities, to victims, who are then sold chemicals to remove the dye.
The suspects allegedly used the two schemes to swindle NT$3 million to NT$6 million (US$99,476 to US$198,952) each from about a dozen Taiwanese women, the prosecutors said.
It is unusual to find a criminal ring comprised of Taiwanese and foreign nationals, they added.
Officials said the other four arrested were a Liberian man identified only as Tehe, an Indonesian woman named Putri, a Taiwanese man surnamed Tseng (曾) and a Taiwanese woman surnamed Tu (杜).
Richards and his alleged associates were under surveillance for three months, following reports of fraud filed by victims, the prosecutors said.
Richards would allegedly frequent online dating sites, on which he pretended to be a US military commander stationed in the Middle East, to meet Taiwanese women.
Richards allegedly gained the trust of the victims and initiated romantic relationships, promising to marry them in Taiwan and then start a family in the US, the prosecutors said.
Huang reportedly helped Richards with communications and accommodations, and helped Tehe and other Africans enter Taiwan on tourist visas, the prosecutors added.
Richards was arrested in Keelung as he was selling dye to a potential victim, police said.