Suspected "Nigerian email" scammer appears in court

October 31, 2003 Sophos Press Release

According to media reports, a 39-year-old man is to appear in court today to face 17 charges relating to fraudulent computer usage known as the Nigerian email scam.

The scam has caused email inboxes around the world to be flooded with spam messages promising millions of dollars in winnings or inheritance, but insist that recipients first have to send money to cover expenses.

Reports claim that the New South Wales's Crime Command Assets Confiscation Unit (ACU) have tracked down hundreds of victims of the scam around the world. In some cases, the victims were promised lottery winnings, but never remembered actually buying a ticket.

"In the last six months, we've probably tracked around AUS $5 million," said ACU commander Inspector Jennifer Thommeny. "This [arrest] is really significant."

"Scams like this can not only fill up the email inboxes of millions of users around the world, but also attempt to conduct a sinister financial fraud," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "Everyone who uses email for legitimate purposes will applaud the authorities investigating cases such as this."

The arrest, which follows a four-month long investigation, followed a search performed by the ACU of a property in Nyngan, New South Wales. The police conducted simultaneous searches at two other locations in Sydney where they seized computers and documents.

The man, who has been identified as Nick Marinellis, is expected to appear in court in Dubbo, New South Wales, today.