CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Three people were arrested in the Charleston area as part of a larger international round up on federal fraud charges, according to the Department of Justice.
The defendants in Charleston were arrested in a nine-count indictment, according to a release from the agency. A total of 19 people were arrested across the United States and internationally, authorities say, including arrests in South Africa, Canada, California, Wisconsin and Indiana.
The indictments allege the involvement of a West African transnational organized crime enterprise engaged in numerous complex financial fraud schemes conducted over the internet, according to the report. The mass marketing fraud included romance scams, re-shipping scams, fraudulent check scams and work-at-home scams, along with bank, financial and credit card takeovers, the report states.
The investigation began in Mississippi in October, 2011, after U.S. law enforcement officers were contacted by a female victim of a sweetheart scam. The victim told authorities she received a package in the mail requesting she reship the merchandise to an address in Pretoria, South Africa, the report states. The investigation later revealed the merchandise was purchased using stolen personal identity information and fraudulent credit card information of persons in United States, the report states.
Investigators say they have identified hundreds of victims of this scam in the U.S., resulting in the loss of millions of U.S. dollars.