80 indicted in online fraud scheme that stole millions

80 charged in online fraud scheme

Los Angeles — Federal agents are on the hunt for suspected con artists in one of the biggest scams the country has ever seen. Eighty were indicted in the U.S. and overseas.

Cameras caught nearly a dozen arrests near Los Angeles as part of a worldwide operation to take down the alleged email scammers. Most arrested were Nigerian nationals who allegedly preyed primarily on elderly victims, with low tech offers to send money.

According to the indictments, the schemes used online romances and fake business emails to steal at least $6 million and overall attempted to take an additional $40 million from victims in the U.S. and across the globe.

"Those fraud schemes have evolved and become much more sophisticated. Nigerian fraud networks now target individuals and businesses alike," said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna.

Federal officials have been sounding the alarm on the increasing fraud, creating public service announcements. 

In 2012, Debby Montgomery Johnson fell victim to an online scam involving a Nigerian scheme. It cost her much of her life savings.

"He broke my heart, and my head went with it," she said.

Romance scams have become a huge part of online corruption and the crackdown was just a small slice. According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims lost $143 million in romance schemes last year. That's more than any other type of fraud reported to the federal government.