Peter Okoeguale, a 33 year old Nigerian, has been sentenced to 20 months in jail for defrauding thousands of pounds from innocent computer users around the world through the use of the infamous Nigerian email scam.
Okoeguale is the first person to be prosecuted in North Wales for what is known as advance fee fraud, and Judge John Rogers QC recommended that he be deported back to Nigeria once the sentence has been served.
UK authorities found in Okoeguale's possession programs to scan websites for email addresses for the purpose of bombarding them with unsolicited email - also known as spam. Police officers were able to trace 11 victims, including one in Scotland who lost up to £20,000, and a retired 72-year-old American businessman who was defrauded of $46,500.
"The Nigerian letter scam is simple robbery - the emails aim to mislead and defraud innocent computer users out of their cash", said Carole Theriault, security consultant at Sophos. "This is a serious crime that now has serious consequences. We hope this sentence will make other email fraudsters think twice before they spam out their lies."
According to the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), the "419 fraud" - named after the relevant section of the Nigerian penal code, refers to unsolicited mail in which the author purports to be a senior government or central bank official who has over-inflated a contract. In return for help smuggling money out of the country, the recipient of email is offered a significant financial reward. At first no money is requested but, once a victim has been drawn in, requests are made from the fraudster for assistance with legal and administrative costs.
"This is not the first computer criminal in North Wales to be sentenced to jail," continued Theriault.
In January 2003 Simon Vallor, a twenty-two year old web designer from Llandudno, received a two year custodial sentence for his viruses which were said to have infected at least 27,000 PCs in 42 countries.
Sophos recommends companies protect their email with a consolidated solution to protect themselves against spam.
Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.