Michael Neu, 67, faces 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering after being taken into custody following an 18-month investigation, according to the Slidell Police Department. Police said Neu is suspected of being the scam’s “middle man” who obtained money and “subsequently wired” funds to his co-conspirators in Nigeria.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, the phishing scam begins with an email purporting to be from a high-ranking Nigerian official who seeks financial assistance or personal information to retrieve an alleged inheritance.
Though the scheme is often the butt of late-night TV jokes, people have fallen victim to the scam, officials say.
“Most people laugh at the thought of falling for such a fraud, but law enforcement officials report annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes,” the Slidell police said in a statement.
Authorities warn to be cautious when receiving suspicious emails or phone calls from unknown individuals and urge people not to disclose personal or financial information. Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said he hopes Neu’s arrest serves as a warning to the public.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said in a released statement. “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.”