419 Fraud Charges: What Exactly Are They?
Have you been charged with 419 fraud or told that you’re under investigation? Wondering what the heck 419 fraud even is?
Chances are good that you’ve heard of this type of fraud, but you may not realize it until you understand more about it. In this post, we’ll describe 419 fraud in detail and let you know how we can help if you have been accused of committing this type of crime.
What Exactly Is 419 Fraud?
The Criminal Code Section 419 of Nigeria states: “Any person who by any false pretence, and with intent to defraud, obtains from any other person anything capable of being stolen, or induces any other person to deliver to any person anything capable of being stolen, is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for three years.”
Why are we quoting Nigeria’s criminal code here? Because 419 fraud is better known as that email you got from a Nigerian prince where he begs you to send him a small amount of money with the promise of a far larger reward when you do. It’s an incredibly well-known scam. In fact, it’s so well-known and Nigerians have attempted fraud against Americans so many times that the FBI now refers to this type of scam as 419 fraud.
This scam takes shape in many different ways. All types of 419 fraud are prosecutable in the U.S., and they can result in felony charges. The U.S. government will prosecute any individual who is subject to arrest and trial within United States jurisdiction.
How Does 419 Fraud Work?
Though in recent years you are probably most familiar with the Nigerian prince email, 419 fraud can actually take the form of an email, letter, or fax that is sent to an individual in the United States. Let’s delve into the specific scam in more detail.
This piece of communication informs the recipient that he or she can be financially compensated with large sums if they agree to assisting someone in accessing Nigerian funds. This request can be made in several different ways, including the following:
- The sender states that the recipient can help recover unclaimed money or property.
- The sender needs help accessing a stolen fortune.
- The sender says that an official has embezzled funds that must be taken out of Nigeria.
- The sender claims that monetary winnings or inheritance money has been awarded, but the sender needs help getting it out of Nigeria.
The recipient of the communication is promised a large reward for helping the sender access the funds, though the indicated situations do not exist. The recipient is defrauded when he or she pays advance fees or provides financial information which can be used for stealing identities.
In some cases, the sender issues a fraudulent check and asks the recipient to deposit it, then forwards some of the funds back to the sender. When the money is wired, the fraudulent nature of the check is discovered.
What Are the Penalties for 419 Fraud?
Penalties vary based on the amount of money or value of the property involved in the case. Convictions may result in years of incarceration, steep fines, restitution, and further charges in civil cases. In some cases, individuals have faced decades in prison and millions in fines.
What to Do If You Are Accused of 419 Fraud?
Our law firm will represent both individuals from Nigeria as well as any other people accused of 419 fraud. The U.S. Constitution protects your rights to a fair trial and due process, and you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Fighting your charges means looking for problems with the prosecution’s case and helping you build the strongest possible defense. Learn what options are available to you by reaching out today for your free initial consultation.
About the Author:
Andrew M. Weisberg is a former felony prosecutor who now serves as a defense attorney in the greater Chicago area. He has extensive experience in handling all types of criminal cases, from sex offenses and domestic violence to retail theft-related crimes, murder, and drug crimes.