Video: Watch the full hour

By Chris Hansen Correspondent
Dateline NBC
updated 5/18/2010 2:50:39 PM ET 2010-05-18T18:50:39
transcript

Editor's note: The man featured in one of Chris Hansen’s Dateline NBC hidden camera investigations has been indicted on felony fraud charges.  

A federal grand jury in Greenville, South Carolina indicted Kenneth Ojua (a/k/a Diplomat “Jeffrey Grant”) – along with “Barrister Adewale Davis” and 4 other alleged co-conspirators in an international internet fraud ring.

Ojua was arraigned in Greenville and federal Magistrate William Catoe ordered him held without bond pending additional hearings.

On May 2, 2010, Dateline told the story of a Connecticut woman who had been cheated out of her life savings by internet scammers.  Dateline’s Chris Hansen launched a year-long investigation aimed at luring some of her scammers out of the shadows.  Dateline’s investigation finally paid off when Hansen met face-to-face with Ojua in a Greenville hotel room. 

During the meeting Ojua tried to collect $37,600 dollars to pay storage fees for a trunk supposedly held in an underground vault and containing the woman’s multi-million dollar inheritance.  The meeting was documented by Dateline’s hidden cameras.

Ojua was arrested by Greenville city police shortly after the meeting — but denied any wrongdoing. The U.S. Secret Service then launched its own investigation.

Federal agents are still attempting to identify and locate the conspirators overseas. Click here to see the indictment.

CHRIS HANSEN: Good evening, and welcome DATELINE. I’m Chris Hansen. If you’ve seen any of our earlier stories about Internet scammers, you probably thought to yourself, ‘That could never happen to me.’ Well, the woman you’ll meet tonight knew all about e-mail cons, but these guys are so good at what they do, she still fell for their scam and lost her life savings. Her troubles started with a simple e-mail, and she’s not alone.

(Voiceover) They come from Internet boiler rooms overseas, promising big money.

(Person typing on keyboard; e-mail; people working on computers; send button)

Unidentified Woman #1: (Voiceover) Eight hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

(E-mail)

Unidentified Man #1: (Voiceover) One million United States dollars.

(E-mail)

Unidentified Woman #2: (Voiceover) Ten-point-seven million dollars.

(E-mail)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But to get it, some people wind up paying a fortune.  Tonight, our story starts in Connecticut where this woman got one of those e-mails. We’ve agreed to use only her first name, Shireen.

(E-mail; stacks of money; Shireen typing at computer)

SHIREEN: When I received the e-mail, the man, he claimed to be a barrister in Nigeria.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And before she realized it, she was caught up in a sophisticated scheme that stole her life savings, but she felt so foolish, she was reluctant to tell anyone.

(Shireen at computer; send button; e-mail; Shireen on porch)

SHIREEN: I was almost, you know, like crying and everything, and I was just taking money out from my IRA.

HANSEN: How hard was it for you, Shireen, to actually go to the police?

SHIREEN: Very hard.

Deputy Chief GARY MacNAMARA: I’m proud of her for coming forward. I don’t know whether I would be able to come forward and face family members and friends to say, ‘I fell for this.’

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Gary MacNamara, of the Fairfield, Connecticut police, says when his department got the case, he could hardly believe it.

(Guy MacNamara at computer)

HANSEN: Here’s an educated woman...

Deputy Chief MacNAMARA: Mm-hmm.

HANSEN: ...in an affluent community with family and still she gets taken by these guys?

Deputy Chief MacNAMARA: Yeah. We’re all vulnerable when it comes to hope.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Thousands of people fall for similar scams, but they rarely admit it. The scams can fool people you’d think would be too smart to be taken in, but Sergeant James Perez says that’s because the thieves are surprisingly sophisticated and their scams may not be very obvious at the start.

(People walking on street; e-mails; James Perez at computer)

Sergeant JAMES PEREZ: Most of the victims are well educated. We’re talking about professors, doctors. It runs the whole gamut.

HANSEN: How do they fall for these scams?

Sgt. PEREZ: Well, you know, these scammers, these cybercriminals, are extremely intelligent in psychological warfare. Oftentimes, they’re not going to ask for money right away. They’re going to play the game and they’re going to psychologically stroke her for as much as they can before they actually start the attack.

HANSEN: Like an online sexual predator grooms a potential target.

Sgt. PEREZ: Absolutely. I like to say attack, because that’s truly what it is.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) So just how does the scam work? For Shireen, it involved a series of phony documents, starting with an e-mail from a lawyer overseas, Barrister Davis, about a tragic accident.

(Shireen at computer; documents; e-mail; newspaper clipping)

Unidentified Man #2: (As Barrister Adewale Davis) “Dear Shireen, unfortunately they all lost their lives.”

Sgt. PEREZ: And he tells her that he’s the attorney for this family who had a horrific accident and that they left behind a vast fortune of about $15 million.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Why would anyone believe that? Well, to begin with, the lawyer sends this real looking newspaper clipping about the accident.

(E-mail; newspaper clipping)

HANSEN: And the people have the same last name as Shireen.

Sgt. PEREZ: That would lead anyone to believe that, ‘Perhaps, maybe, I do have a relative out there who I might not know but that who might have a fortune that really truly does belong to me.’

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And there’s more than the newspaper. There’s also a death certificate.

(Death certificate)

Sgt. PEREZ: And it’s a very real looking death certificate.

HANSEN: May I see it?

Sgt. PEREZ: Sure.

HANSEN: How believable are these documents?

Sgt. PEREZ: These are very believable.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And Shireen says there’s something else that made the barrister’s story believable, that fortune was from oil.

(Oil pump)

SHIREEN: He said that he had a client die and he worked in a Chevron Oil company in Lagos, Nigeria.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) That made some sense to Shireen, because she knew there were engineers in her extended family. She was born in Bangladesh, but she’s lived her in the United States for most of her adult life, and she knew she had relatives all over the world, including some who worked in the oil industry.

(Shireen and Hansen walking on porch; oil pump)

HANSEN: So you had a number of engineers in your family?

SHIREEN: Yes.

HANSEN: And your thought process was, ‘Maybe one of my relatives had been working over there at some point.’

SHIREEN: Right.

HANSEN: ‘Unbeknownst to me.’

SHIREEN: Right.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The scam works by promising you a fortune but forcing you to pay big fees to claim it. In order to get you hooked, the scammers start small.

(Person typing on keyboard; e-mail; Shireen at computer)

HANSEN: Tell me about the first fee.

SHIREEN: He said that he needed—I believe the first one is $250.

HANSEN: Two hundred and fifty dollars.

SHIREEN: Yes.

HANSEN: Did you sort of think, ‘Unh, it’s worth it. Let’s just see where this goes?’

SHIREEN: That’s what exactly I was thinking.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) First a lawyer’s fee, then a court fee, and now some bank fees.

(Courtroom; vault door being opened)

Man #2: (As Davis) “You, as the beneficiary, will need to send the sum of $2,150 for the office duty stamp.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The fees are designed little by little to lure people in.

(E-mail)

Sgt. PEREZ: She’s completely invested now into this process. She can’t just turn away and walk away because now she loses that money. So in a way they have her on the hook now.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And boy, did they.

(Shireen at computer)

Unidentified Woman #3: (As banker) “From UBS Warburg. Attention:

Beneficiary.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) To convince Shireen it was all real, the scammers poured it on, sending her official-looking e-mails, not just from the lawyer but from banks and government officials. And there was more. They were sending her these forms in color with seals and official-looking stamps, all telling the same story about her multimillion-dollar inheritance.

(E-mails; documents)

SHIREEN: So I kind of started believing in him.

Sgt. PEREZ: Here we have a document, a very real-looking document that’s basically a fund release order.

HANSEN: It’s got a stamp of approval.

Sgt. PEREZ: It’s got her name on it. It lists...

HANSEN: Oh, it’s customized for Shireen.

Sgt. PEREZ: Absolutely. It lists her as the beneficiary. These are very convincing documents.

HANSEN: “Foreign Operations Department, Lagos, Nigeria. The meeting of the board of directors held on March 7, 2008.” And it basically lays out this whole $15 million transfer.

Sgt. PEREZ: Of course she’s elated because she is well on her way to get her fortune, and of course, she’s vested—she’s invested in it already. She has to continue.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) By now Shireen not only has sent money, she’s even made a trip to London to meet face to face with people she thought were bankers handling her inheritance. She gave them another $10,000, hoping it was the final fee, and before long an e-mail from the bank with good news.

(Shireen on porch; airplane; London streets, buildings and bridge)

Woman #3: (As banker) “Dear Madam, your total sum of US $15 million is expected in your account today.”

Sgt. PEREZ: At this point the congratulatory letters are coming in, and everyone’s signing off. Everything appears like it’s going exactly the way it should be.

HANSEN: She’s so close.

Sgt. PEREZ: She’s so close. She could almost see the money. She can smell it, she can taste it in her bank account.

HANSEN: The scammers managed to get Shireen to be emotionally invested here.

Sgt. PEREZ: Right. They’re literally pulling the puppet strings.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But suddenly a problem. The bank says the money transfer can’t go through.

(E-mail; money)

Woman #3: (As banker) “Dear Madam, our transfer of $15 million reflected back to our account.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The bank says the fund is frozen until Shireen provides some official documents.

(Money; Shireen)

Sgt. PEREZ: There’s this thing called an inheritance tax clearance, a certificate.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And inheritance tax clearance certificate.

(E-mail)

Sgt. PEREZ: (Voiceover) Exactly. And a clean bill of record.

(E-mail)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And guess what? They’re going to cost a bundle. Crooks are moving in for the big score.

(Money; person typing on keyboard)

Sgt. PEREZ: Now these two items, of course, aren’t going to cost a few thousand. It comes to a total of $165,000.

HANSEN: A hundred and sixty-five dollars?

Sgt. PEREZ: Just to be able to reach out and grab the money, because it’s right there.

HANSEN: Little by little, 300, 500, 1700, 15,000, 25,000, and now this is the big score.

Sgt. PEREZ: This is it.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) In the end, Shireen lost her life savings, more than $200,000, and chances are she’ll never get a dime of it back. But believe it or not, the scammers still think they’ve got Shireen on the hook for even more. What they don’t know is that she’s agreed to let DATELINE step in...

(Shireen in kitchen; e-mail; people working on computers; person typing on keyboard)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Nice to see you. Come on up.

(Voiceover) ...and try to turn the tables. We start by setting a trap of our own.

(Person typing on keyboard; Hansen and Shireen at computer; e-mail; Shireen typing)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) I need to do a face-to-face meeting before I send anybody money.

(Voiceover) But guess who may spoil the party? When Follow the Money continues.

Sgt. PEREZ: Make no mistake about it, we are at war.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Sergeant James Perez has seen it firsthand.

(Perez walking; Perez in office)

Sgt. PEREZ: We are at war with a faceless enemy, an invisible enemy that has the innate ability to get right into the living room, right into the very core of our country and try and scam people, and they’re doing it at a record rate.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) He’s been investigating the case of a Connecticut woman who lost her live savings.

(Shireen on porch)

Woman #3: (As banker) “Attention Beneficiary, the transfer will have effect tomorrow.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The e-mail said she was about to inherit a fortune. The documents looked so real, and Shireen wanted to believe them so badly, even though at first she had her doubts.

(Person typing on keyboard; people working on computers; money; e-mails; documents)

Sgt. PEREZ: At one point she stopped them and said, ‘I don’t believe this.’

She basically told them that she had seen a DATELINE show on scams.

HANSEN: So what a minute. Shireen had actually seen one of our previous investigations.

Sgt. PEREZ: That’s correct.

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) My name is Chris Hansen.

Unidentified Man #3: (Previous scam investigation) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) And you’ve just been caught.

And you had seen one of my stories, and you actually confronted Barrister Davis...

SHIREEN: Mm-hmm.

HANSEN: ...about these con men.

SHIREEN: Right.

HANSEN: And said, ‘Are you one of these guys?’

SHIREEN: Yes.

HANSEN: And what did he say?

SHIREEN: He was very angry. He said that, ‘You better apologize.’

HANSEN: ‘You better apologize.’

SHIREEN: Yeah. He said, ‘I’m not like that.’

HANSEN: (Voiceover) She didn’t realize she was being conned until it was too late.

(Shireen on porch; e-mail)

HANSEN: Why didn’t you just walk away from it?

SHIREEN: I know. I was going to. And then they kept saying that the--‘See, you already invested so much money.’

HANSEN: And you figured, ‘I’m into it this far.’

SHIREEN: Yes, exactly.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) After Shireen contacted local police, they contacted federal authorities. But international scams over the Internet are tough to prosecute, so Shireen asked DATELINE to help. Could we crack the case and lure the thieves out from behind their computer keyboards into plain sight?

(Fairfield Police station; Perez at desk; Shireen; people working on computers)

Unidentified Woman #4: (As Shireen) “Mr. Davis, I received your e-mail and noted the content.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The first step, taking over her e-mail. Remember, the thieves have already taken more than $200,000 from Shireen, but it doesn’t take long to discover their greed has no limit. They want even more.

(Shireen at computer; e-mail; Shireen at computer; send button; e-mail)

Man #2: (As Davis) “Dear Shireen, get the balance of $5,000 before the end of this month.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Authorities say the thieves are master manipulators who know they almost never get caught.

(Person typing at computer)

Deputy Chief MacNAMARA: It goes to show you how bold and how confident they are that they’re not going to be arrested for it.

HANSEN: There’s always an excuse.

SHIREEN: Always an excuse.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But we’re about to turn the tables. Our chance comes when the thieves send this e-mail saying the money transfer is finally ready, but the bank is asking for more money than ever before.

(Shireen and Hansen at computer; vault door opening)

Man #2: (As Davis) “Dear Shireen, they say the only fee they will be collecting is the 10 percent of the $15 million.”

HANSEN: Ten percent, that’s a staggering fee, $1.5 million. But remember, DATELINE is answering the e-mails now and we say we’ll pay the up-front money on one condition, the scammers have to meet me face to face.

(Speaking on phone) Yes, is this Barrister Davis?

(Voiceover) I’m posing as a businessman who supposedly loaning Shireen the million dollars she needs to close the deal. At first the thieves refuse to meet, but we keep dangling the offer to pay that million dollar fee if only I can meet them in person.

(Hansen speaking on phone; Shireen speaking on phone; Hansen speaking on phone; money; Hansen speaking on phone)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) I need to do a face-to-face meeting before I send anybody money. I’m willing to invest, I adore—I adore her. I want to help her. I want to get this thing done.

(Voiceover) Finally Barrister Davis takes the bait.

(Shireen and Hansen looking at phone)

Man #2: (As Davis) “Dear Shireen, your friend can see the fund face to face.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) So it’s off to London. That’s where Shireen met with the so-called bankers once before.

(Airplane; London Bridge)

HANSEN: Did you meet Mr. Johannsen?

SHIREEN: Yes.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And that’s where they finally agreed to meet me.  DATELINE rents a suite at a prominent hotel and we start wiring it with hidden cameras; but there’s a last minute problem, apparently the bankers haven’t arrived yet.

(Hansen and Shireen at computer; inside hotel suite; room being wired; TV monitors)

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) If you really need the money...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The barrister says they want us to send money in advance to pay for their plane tickets.

(Shireen speaking on phone)

Man #2: (As Davis) “Dear Shireen, now we need to send them the $7,500 which their staff will use to travel down to London.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) We think that’s just another con.

(Hansen making phone call)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) I mean, I can’t believe you don’t have a representative already in London.

(Voiceover) Remember, in earlier investigations, we discovered the Nigerian scammers already have people based in London.

(Man greeted by Hansen and woman)

Man #3: (Previous scam investigation) And we have to be careful.

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) So I decide to call the barrister’s bluff.

(Hansen speaking on phone)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Listen to me, Mr. Davis, you need to listen to me. If the bank is going to take a fee of more than $1 million, they can certainly afford to get somebody here for a meeting tomorrow afternoon.

(Voiceover) Shireen even called.

(Shireen)

Unidentified Man #4: (Speaking on phone) Hello.

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) Hello. Is that Mr. Davis?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) All but begging the barrister. Without a face-to-face meeting, she says she has no hope of raising the money.

(Shireen speaking on phone; phone; Shireen speaking on phone)

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) And then I have now my last hope, miss—my friend Mr. Chris has been helping—willing to help me, but he wants to meet someone in person.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But while we’re upstairs making those calls, our hotel is being invaded by reporters and photographers, even from our own network.

(Shireen and Hansen in hotel room; photographers; Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira)

MEREDITH VIEIRA reporting: (“Today”) And we’re going to be talking a lot this morning about Susan Boyle.

Unidentified Man #5: (“Britain’s Got Talent”) Susan Boyle!

HANSEN: (Voiceover) They’re here covering that British singing sensation Susan Boyle. It turns out we’d scheduled our meeting right before the finals of “Britain’s Got Talent” and our hotel was crawling with reporters. Not exactly how scammers like to be greeted.

(Clips from “Britain’s Got Talent”)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) It’s going to be terrible for me to disappoint Shireen.

Man #4: (Speaking on phone) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) But we either have to meet face to face or this deal is just not going to happen.

(Voiceover) We may never know if it was the media frenzy or something else that scared them off, but in the end, Barrister Davis backs out, leaving Shireen angry and disappointed.

(Boyle waving; photographers; newspaper; e-mail; Shireen and Hansen in hotel suite)

SHIREEN: I mean, his name is Davis. I think he’s just devil.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But we’re a long way from throwing in the towel and the trail is about to lead to a place we never expected. Coming up, Shireen’s first brush with her $15 million inheritance. But why was this money funny?

(TV monitors; Hyatt; elevator; Shireen, Kenneth Ojua and Hansen in hotel suit; e-mail; money)

Sgt. PEREZ: Two huge men show up...

HANSEN: Two big guys show up with a—with a crate of money.

Sgt. PEREZ: Exactly.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But it’s all dyed black.

(Money being dyed)

Sgt. PEREZ: (Voiceover) It’s all dyed black.

(Money being died)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

Man #4: (Speaking on phone) And that’s it.

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) So no one is available this time?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Even though Barrister Davis didn’t show up for our scheduled meeting in London...

(Shireen speaking on phone; London at night)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) We either have to meet face to face or this deal is just not going to happen and it’s not worth us talking anymore.

(Voiceover) ...e-mails show that his ring of thieves still wants to squeeze more money out of Shireen.

(Person typing on computer)

Man #2: (As Davis) “To Shireen, the bank told me that you have to pay more fees.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And DATELINE hasn’t given up either. We’ve taken over Shireen’s e-mail and we’re still trying to lure the thieves into a face-to-face meeting. So we write back that Shireen has found a new friend with lots of money.

(Hansen and Shireen at computer; e-mail being typed; person typing at computer)

Woman #4: (As Shireen) “Mr. Davis, I spoke with my friend today and he says he will definitely loan me the money.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The barrister takes the bait again, agreeing to a face-to-face meeting.

(E-mail)

Man #4: (As Barrister Davis) “To Shireen, you will meet with the diplomats.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But where will this meeting be? Over the years we’ve tracked the Internet thieves all over the world, to Africa, to London, to Amsterdam, even to Switzerland.

(Busy street; Hansen speaking on phone; busy streets)

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) Here’s what I suspect. I suspect that you’re part of a scam.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Authorities say most Internet crimes are based overseas, and they’re on the rise.

(Cameras entering hotel room; Hansen speaking with man)

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) Did you or did you not lie to me?

Unidentified Man #6: (Previous scam investigation) I lied to you.

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) At the government’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the number of complaints is up more than 20 percent in just a year, and the FBI estimates that last year e-mail attacks bilked Americans out of more than half a billion dollars.

(Internet Crime Complaint Center sign; person typing on computer; FBI building; people working at computers)

TEXT:

Complaints

Up 22.3%

$559,700,000

Lost

HANSEN: (Previous scam investigation) How often do you rip people off this way?

(Voiceover) So based on our other investigations, we think we’ll have to travel overseas again, but this time we’re in for a surprise.

(Hansen exiting vehicle; airplane; runway; United States flag, elevator)

Man #2: (As Davis) “To Shireen, the diplomats will prepare and move your funds to South Carolina for delivery.”

HANSEN: (Voiceover) South Carolina. This ring of thieves apparently is brazen enough to operate right here at home on US soil. The barrister tells us to contact a man he calls a diplomat, somebody going by the name of Jeffrey Grant, to work out the details.

(Greenville sign; Greenville street; e-mail; phone)

Mr. KENNETH OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Yes.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Yes, Mr. Grant, I’m calling for Shireen.

(Voiceover) We don’t want to let Shireen meet the thieves alone, and so we make up a story that she’s been in the hospital. A DATELINE producer is pretending to be a relative who will be helping her with the trip.

(Shireen; emergency vehicle; medical equipment)

Unidentified Producer: (Speaking on phone) Do you physically have the fund that she is suppose to receive?

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Sir, everything is here. That’s why they sent me here. And we don’t need to speak too much.

Producer: (Speaking on phone) OK. We’ll see you Friday.

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Yes, sir. Thank you.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The meeting has taken nearly a year to set up, but we’re about to meet one of the thieves face to face. We called to let the so-called diplomat know we’ve arrived.

(Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Hello.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Mr. Grant?

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Yeah. How are you?

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Hey, good. How are you? It’s Shireen’s brother-in-law. Shireen and I actually got in a little early.

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) Hi, Mr. Grant.

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Hey. How are you doing, ma’am?

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) I’m fine. Thank you.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Shortly after our phone call, the so-called diplomat Jeffrey Grant arrives at our hotel in Greenville, South Carolina. We’ve rented a room on the fifth floor and our hidden cameras will be recording his every word. You’re about to see something rarely captured, even by federal authorities, an international Internet crime ring at work right here in the United States.

(Ojua walking in hotel; Ojua in elevator; Shireen and Hansen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Mr. Grant, this is Shireen.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) How are you?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Just moments earlier, Barrister Davis had called, all the way from Nigeria, to check how the deal was progressing.

(Ojua and Shireen in hotel suite)

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I just got a call from Mr. Davis.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Mm-hmm.

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And he said that as soon as you come here to give him a call.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Just as we suspected, the scammers seem to be part of a sophisticated overseas network.

(Hansen, Ojua and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) How is this going to work exactly today?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Well, actually I bring it over here.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Bring—when you bring what over here?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) The boxes.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) The boxes with the money?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) For Mr. Grant, this first meeting seems to be a scouting mission to make sure we aren’t the police. He tells us he’ll come back later with the paperwork and the money.

(Ojua, Shireen and Hansen in hotel suite)

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) They’re give me maybe in about—in the next one hour I’ll be right back.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) One hour?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And you’ll be able to bring the money actually up here?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But before he leaves, there’s another phone call from the barrister.

(Shireen answering phone)

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Hello. Yeah, Mr. Grant is here. He’s sitting right in front of—here with me.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) It’s almost as if the crook overseas is checking up on his partner in America.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I guess we’ll meet back here in an hour.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And let’s do that.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

(Voiceover) And when he comes back, we’re hoping to get a look at one of the crooks’ favorite tricks. Remember, before DATELINE ever got involved, Shireen had flown to London in hopes of claiming her money. During that trip she met with people she thought were bankers and lawyers, and she remembers they gave her a sneak peek at what they said was her fortune.

(Ojua in elevator; airplane; London at night; money)

SHIREEN: They brought a big trunk.

HANSEN: They open it up. What do you see?

SHIREEN: And it was sort of like bundles of money or whatever. They all like covered with black.

HANSEN: So bundles of black bills.

SHIREEN: Yes. Yes.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Police call it the black money trick.

(Money)

Sgt. PEREZ: Two huge men show up.

HANSEN: Two big guys show up with a—with a crate of money.

Sgt. PEREZ: Exactly.

HANSEN: But it’s all dyed black?

Sgt. PEREZ: It’s all dyed black.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But the scammers have an explanation for that.

(Black paper)

HANSEN: As apparently they had to dye it black to smuggle it out of Africa.

Sgt. PEREZ: Exactly. And they explain to her that this money now has to be reconverted into usable money, and the only way to do that is to dip it into this very extremely expensive chemical in order to make the money legal so that you can use it.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Sergeant Perez says most of the so-called money is just plain black paper. But in a magic truck fit for Houdini, he showed us how the thieves convinced Shireen that the money was real, by washing a couple of select bills before her very eyes.

(Perez opening brief case; Perez cleaning money)

SHIREEN: And he cleaned two bills.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And when he cleaned those bills, what was revealed?

(Money being cleaned)

SHIREEN: (Voiceover) They were $200...

(Money being cleaned)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Two hundred dollar bills.

(Hundred dollar bill)

SHIREEN: (Voiceover) Yeah. US...

(Hundred dollar bill)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Real hundred dollar bills.

(Hundred dollar bill)

SHIREEN: (Voiceover) Exactly.

(Hundred dollar bill)

Sgt. PEREZ: They hand her the money so that she can, for the first time, see and feel the money in her hands. And they go so far as to telling her, ‘Hey, listen. You don’t have to take our word for it. Take this money and go out to the store and go spend it.’ So that they can really convince her that this money is so real and it’s all right there.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Of course, it’s all a trick to get more money. The scammers use simple supplies, Elmers Glue and some iodine to put a black coating on a couple of real bills. After it dries, the black is easy to wash out. But the thieves say they’re using special chemicals and they’re very expensive, so it’s another big fee to pay before you can actually spend your fortune. When we called Mr. Grant earlier to set up the meeting, we asked about the chemicals.

(Money being dyed; money being washed; pill being crushed; chemicals being put into water; water being swished in cup; money being cleaned; phone)

Producer: (Speaking on phone) She said something about chemicals or a person with chemicals that would be needed?

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Whatever needs to take care of, that’s my job.

That’s why I’m here.

Producer: (Speaking on phone) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) So is that black money trick what the diplomat has up his sleeve? Coming up, Shireen is told her inheritance is just a car ride away, packed in a trunk, stored in an underground vault.

(Money being dyed; money; man walking; stacks of money; vault door opening)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I mean, do you think it’s filled with money? Do you think it’s filled with gold? Do you think it’s filled with valuables or what?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) So do you want me to find out?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) When Follow the Money continues.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) When you’ve been a victim of a scam, it’s embarrassing.

(Shireen at computer)

Sgt. PEREZ: Part of the problem with investigating these crimes is that most victims will never come forward. They’re just too embarrassed. They do not want to let their families know. And these scammers realize this and they use that very fear against them.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But Shireen, the Connecticut woman who lost nearly a quarter of a million dollars in an Internet scam, not only was brave enough to tell police, now she’s helping DATELINE as we try to turn the tables on her scammer.

(Shireen in kitchen)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Mr. Grant, this is Shireen.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) How are you?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) We’ve met face to face with the so-called diplomat Jeffrey Grant.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Is there going to be more money that...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) ...who is supposed to be delivering Shireen’s $15 million inheritance. To our surprise, the meeting is happening right here in the US, in a hotel room we rented in Greenville, South Carolina. It seems as if Mr.  Grant is a part of a ring of Internet thieves, and he’s operating right here in America. But after a few minutes, he told us he had to leave to pick up some forms and, of course, the huge pile of cash they’d been promising Shireen for so long.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite; money; Shireen, Hansen and Ojua in hotel room; outside Hyatt; Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) One hour, I’ll be right back.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) One hour?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And you’ll be able to bring the money actually up here?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) When he returns, we’re wondering if he’s going to try to pull the same black money trick Shireen saw before in London. But Mr. Grant is gone for more than two hours, and I’m beginning to worry he might be on to us, so I call just to make sure he’s coming back.

(Money being died; money being washed; Ojua leaving hotel; Hansen speaking on phone)

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Hello.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Hello. Mr. Grant?

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Mm-hmm. Yeah.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But we’re in for another surprise. When he hears it’s me, Mr. Grant quickly puts a woman on the phone. She says she’s from a local storage company that’s been protecting a mysterious shipment.

(Hansen speaking on phone)

Unidentified Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) We just know that it’s heavy and it’s stored if one of the underground vaults.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) OK.

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) And that’s all we care to know.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) OK. So...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Of course, we’re supposed to think the container holds Shireen’s multimillion-dollar inheritance, but what this is all leading up to is yet another attempt to dip into Shireen’s pocketbook. Before we can even see the mysterious shipment, the woman says we’ll need to give more cash to Mr. Grant, $37,600 to be exact, supposedly so he can pay the storage fees.

(Hansen speaking on phone; Shireen; stacks of money; briefcase being opened;

Ojua walking in hotel)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) My understanding is Mr. Grant is going to come here and get the $37,600.

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone)

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) And then he’s going to bring it to you.

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) He’ll bring it—he’ll bring it back to our office.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Do you want cashier’s check or cash?

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) Absolutely cash.

HANSEN: (Speaking on phone) Absolutely cash, OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Cash, exactly what criminals want.

HANSEN: I’ll bet you dinner at your favorite restaurant there is no container. But I think we have the local ring here.

(Voiceover) Turns out we haven’t been made at all. In fact, the scammers apparently think they can take us for even more money.

(Ojua entering hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) You want some coffee?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Sure enough, that afternoon Mr. Grant is back at our hotel to collect $37,000. But before we hand over the cash, I have a few questions, like confirming the exact amount of money we need to pay.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) The amount that I have to give you now for Shireen is 37,600.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) OK. That’s the number?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Now is there anything else involved or...

(Voiceover) But with each question, the answers get more suspicious. For instance, since I’m handing over so many cash up front, shouldn’t I be able to be there when he picks up the supposed fortune?

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Would it be wise if I went with you to go pick up the crate?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) If it’s good to go for me but for security reasons, no.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) He’s telling me that coming along to the underground vault would be a security problem, but I keep asking.

(Vault door opening)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I mean, maybe I could help you carry it if it’s that heavy.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Look, carrying the money, that’s—it’s not a problem.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Are you sure?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) No.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Because I’m happy to go with you if you like.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Trust me, that’s no problem.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Then there’s the question of what’s supposed to be in that container. Remember, Shireen has been promised $15 million, but remarkably Mr. Grant claims he doesn’t know what’s in the mysterious trunk.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Do you think it’s filled with money? Do you think it’s filled with gold? Do you think it’s filled with valuables or what?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) So do you want me to find out?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) In fact, this so-called diplomat says he can’t even give us a receipt for the tens of thousands of dollars we’re about to hand over in return for Shireen’s supposed fortune.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Do you have any paperwork for us or a receipt of some sort or...

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) You mean for them?

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) For the money that you want us to give you now. I mean, do you have a receipt with you or?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) What kind of receipt?

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Well, the money—a receipt for $36,700?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) No. I mean...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) If there was ever any doubt this was part of a scam to take even more money from a woman who’s already lost her life savings, there’s certainly none now. There’s no way this is a legitimate deal, so it’s about time for me to tell Mr. Grant who I really am.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: Mr. Grant, there’s something you need to know.

Mr. OJUA: Yeah?

HANSEN: I’m Chris Hansen with DATELINE NBC.

(Voiceover) Despite everything you’ve just seen, the so-called diplomat insists he’s done nothing wrong.

(Stack of money; TV monitors; Ojua shaking finger; camera entering hotel suite)

HANSEN: Now that you’re in trouble...

Mr. OJUA: I’m not in trouble.

HANSEN: Well, I think you are in trouble.

(Voiceover) When DATELINE continues.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) So after I give you the money, you go to the storage facility.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) You pay them. They give you the documentation. They release this crate.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Yeah.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) We’re face to face with a so-called diplomat, Jeffrey Grant. He says he’s going to bring us a mysterious crate that’s supposedly being held in a special underground vault in Greenville, South Carolina.

(Hansen and Ojua in hotel suite; stack of money; vault; Greenville sign)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And are you going to bring it back here?

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) I’m going to bring it back here.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) We’re supposed to believe it contains $15 million, but we think it’s really all part of a sophisticated scam that’s already stolen this Connecticut woman’s life savings.

(Money in vault; people working on computers; Ojua and Shireen in hotel suite)

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Yes. Yes. Mr. Grant is here.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Shireen has been helping DATELINE for nearly a year, trying to lure one of the thieves out of the shadows. Finally, it’s time to turn the tables on the man who’s ready to take even more of her money.

(Shireen and Hansen in hotel suite; Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

HANSEN: Well, Mr. Grant, there’s something you need to know.

Mr. OJUA: Yeah.

HANSEN: I’m Chris Hansen with DATELINE NBC, and we’ve been taking a look at this group that you’re apparently affiliated with, a group that has taken $200,000 of her money.

Mr. OJUA: Yeah.

HANSEN: Two hundred thousand dollars.

Mr. OJUA: I don’t take any money from anybody.

HANSEN: You’re about to take 37,600 from me.

Mr. OJUA: I don’t.

HANSEN: Well, that’s not what you said a moment ago.

Mr. OJUA: I don’t.

HANSEN: What do you say to this woman?

Mr. OJUA: I tell you, I don’t.

HANSEN: The people you work with and know took her for $200,000.

Mr. OJUA: I don’t.

HANSEN: Why don’t you just tell me the truth right now. You know there’s no crate.

Mr. OJUA: Sir.

HANSEN: You know there’s no riches.

Mr. OJUA: Sir.

HANSEN: You know that there’s nothing of value in a crate.

(Voiceover) Mr. Grant denies he has anything to do with a scam, but suddenly he’s bashful about who he really is.

(Hansen and Ojua speaking in hotel suite)

HANSEN: I’d like to see some ID, please.

Mr. OJUA: What ID?

HANSEN: Your ID.

Mr. OJUA: My ID?

HANSEN: Your identification.

Mr. OJUA: What do you mean?

HANSEN: Your driver’s license, your passport. I mean, you told me that you were Jeffrey Grant from South Africa, and the very least you can do is prove that. Otherwise, I have no reason to believe you.

Mr. OJUA: Sir, you asked me a question and I gave your answer. You offered me money. I told you, you don’t owe me any money.

HANSEN: Well, but that’s not what you said before. Now that you’re in trouble.

Mr. OJUA: I’m not in trouble.

HANSEN: Well, I think you are in trouble, because you’re affiliated with a group of people who have been pulling scams.

(Voiceover) But now he’s not only denying he’s part of a scam, he’s saying he never used the name Jeffrey Grant.

(Hansen and Ojua speaking in hotel suite)

HANSEN: So your name is not Jeffrey Grant?

Mr. OJUA: Sir.

HANSEN: Simple question.

Mr. OJUA: I never told you my name is Jeffrey Grant. Have I told you my name is Jeffrey Grant? I have not. I haven’t told you my name is Jeffrey Grant.

HANSEN: That’s what I’ve been calling you all day.

(Voiceover) In fact, that’s the name he’s been responding to for weeks. There were phone calls to set up the meeting.

(Ojua and Hansen in hotel suite; phone)

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Hello.

Producer: (Speaking on phone) Mr. Grant?

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Yeah, how are you?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The phone call this morning telling him we’d just arrived.

(Hansen and Shireen speaking on phone)

SHIREEN: (Speaking on phone) Hi, Mr. Grant.

Mr. OJUA: (Speaking on phone) Hey, how you do, ma’am?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And the first time he walked into our hotel room.

(Ojua entering hotel suite)

HANSEN: (Hidden camera videotape) Mr. Grant, this is Shireen.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) How are you?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Even though we have it all on tape, he’s trying to pretend it never happened.

(TV monitors; Hansen and others in hotel suite)

HANSEN: How do you expect to pull this off?

Mr. OJUA: Sir, listen...

HANSEN: It’s a scam. It’s a con, and we’ve seen it before.

Mr. OJUA: Whatever.

HANSEN: And you’re smack-dab in the middle of it.

Mr. OJUA: Oh, no, no, no. Hold on.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) His world now seems a bit topsy-turvy. He’s not Mr.  Grant. He’s not involved in a scam. And now he’s even denying he knows the person who set up the meeting, Barrister Davis.

(Ojua and Hansen speaking in hotel suite; e-mails)

HANSEN: Barrister Davis, how do you know him?

Mr. OJUA: I don’t know this—I don’t know him.

HANSEN: How can you tell me that you don’t know Barrister Davis? He’s the one who said that you’re the guy to come see to do this deal.

Mr. OJUA: Sir, I...

SHIREEN: And you’ve been talking to him over the phone.

Mr. OJUA: Talking to who?

HANSEN: Barrister Davis.

SHIREEN: Barrister Davis.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) It’s a remarkable lapse in memory. He obviously doesn’t know we’ve been recording his every word. Remember when he first walked into our hotel room and Barrister Davis wanted him to call?

(Hansen and Ojua in hotel suite; TV monitors; Ojua sitting on couch)

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I just got a call from Mr. Davis.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) Mm-hmm.

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) And he said that as soon as you come here to give him a call.

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) OK.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) He certainly seemed to know Barrister Davis then.

(Ojua, Hansen and Shireen in hotel suite)

SHIREEN: And know you are saying that you don’t know him?

Mr. OJUA: I don’t.

HANSEN: How is that—but how can you sit here and lie to me like that?

Mr. OJUA: It’s not a lie.

HANSEN: What you’re saying doesn’t make sense in that Barrister Davis is the one who gave us your information. So how would he get that information if you don’t know him? Explain that to me.

Mr. OJUA: Listen, I will explain myself to you. I...

HANSEN: Not very well and not truthfully.

Mr. OJUA: Well, what...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And if you’re thinking it can’t get any stranger, just listen as “Mr. Whoever-He-Is” begins to blame Shireen for the entire scam, saying she’s trying to take money she doesn’t deserve from poor Africans.

(Ojua shaking finger; Shireen; African street)

Mr. OJUA: I want to know exactly because if there’s poverty in Africa, why is it keep going over and over people getting poor? Because people are ripping Africans off, right?

HANSEN: Oh, wait a minute. So...

Mr. OJUA: So why are you doing it?

HANSEN: So you’re the victim? Africa is the victim?

Mr. OJUA: I want to know why are you encouraging them from beginning?

HANSEN: So she’s the bad guy.

Mr. OJUA: That’s what I’m telling you. I don’t—I don’t do no e-mail. I don’t take money from nobody. If this woman is right here, telling you she cheated with people overseas for two years or whatever—tell the truth. Why are you doing that?

HANSEN: She thought she as going to make money on the deal.

Mr. OJUA: You’re telling me that I’m ripping her off. And I’m telling you she was ripping people off overseas.

HANSEN: What, she’s ripping people off now?

Mr. OJUA: Of course. That’s what it is...

HANSEN: Oh, that’s outrageous.

(Voiceover) No matter what we ask, he won’t admit a thing.

Ojua; Hansen and Ojua in hotel suite)

HANSEN: Look, we can go round and round in this forever, but the reality is we were given your number, you responded to our calls, and you set up a deal in which we were suppose to give you $37,600...

Mr. OJUA: Sir—sir...

HANSEN: ...to bring to this storage facility and bring back...

Mr. OJUA: Sir, listen...

HANSEN: ...some chest of valuables.

Mr. OJUA: Listen. Listen.

HANSEN: Is that wrong?

Mr. OJUA: Whatever you said here...

HANSEN: Is that wrong? Is what I just said wrong? Yes or no? Very simple.

Mr. OJUA: Sir...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Clearly, he’s not answering my questions.

(TV monitors)

HANSEN: All right. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

Mr. OJUA: Can I leave?

HANSEN: Yes. Yeah, you’re free to go.

(Voiceover) He may think he’s free and clear of all responsibility, but there are others who may not think so.

(Hansen and Ojua shaking hands; police officers in hallway; Ojua leaving hotel suite)

Unidentified Police Officer: (Making arrest) Put your hands behind your back.

We’re placing you under arrest at this time. An investigator will help you...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) We had told police in Connecticut about our meeting and they tipped off authorities in South Carolina. Greenville police had been monitoring the meeting on their own from an adjoining room. The so-called diplomat is under arrest, but we’ve only started to scratch the surface of just how widespread this crime ring really is, and how profitable.

(Ojua being arrested by police officers; e-mail; stacks of money)

Detective DAVE WINER: (Looking at records) Twenty-three hundred from this person, 5,000 from this person, 6,000 from this person. When I added it up, about $2.3 million.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) When Follow the Money continues.

HANSEN: Do you want to know what I think? I think that you’re tied into a group from Nigeria...

Mr. OJUA: No, I was not.

HANSEN: ...that trades names and identities of vulnerable women like her, and men, and you scam them. That’s what I think you do.

(Voiceover) He claims he’s not part of a scam.

(Hansen and Ojua speaking)

Police Officer: (Making arrest) You’re under arrest at this time.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But as he leaves our hotel room, the man known as diplomat Jeffrey Grant is arrested and charged with fraud by city police in Greenville, South Carolina. They were tipped off to our meeting by the police in Connecticut who originally launched the investigation.

(Police arresting Ojua; Fairfield Police sign)

Deputy Chief MacNAMARA: They finally was able to contact somebody who really realized that this was going to be a significant arrest.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) But the job of determining just who the so-called diplomat really is and how far his crime ring stretches is just beginning.

(Ojua and police officers walking; photo of Ojua)

Detective RICK FLOYD: We had criminal history here in Greenville that dates back to 1996.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Detective Rick Floyd has discovered his real name is Kenneth Ojua. Originally from Nigeria, he’s lived in the United States for 14 years, and it turns out this isn’t the first time he’s been arrested. In fact, records show that three years ago, in the bar at that same Hyatt hotel where we met him, Kenneth Ojua allegedly tried a similar scam on a doctor from Texas. DATELINE watched as an investigator from the local sheriff’s department opened the evidence they seized in that case three years ago.

(Rick Floyd at computer; Ojua ID; photo of Ojua; Hyatt sign; inside bar; documents; Winer opening package)

Det. WINER: (Opening package) This is the great book.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Including a logbook from Ojua’s apartment listing hundreds of potential victims from all over the country, a possible clue on how thieves stay so organized when communicating all over the world.

(Logbook; Winer and Floyd looking at logbook)

Det. WINER: Each page lists at least one victim.

Det. FLOYD: Mm-hmm.

Det. WINER: Twenty-three hundred from this person, 8500 from this person, 5,000 from this person...

Det. FLOYD: Wow.

Det. WINER: ...6,000 from this person.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The total take if he collected it all?

(Logbook)

Det. WINER: When I added it up, how much money he had gotten out of people, it was about $2.3 million.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) That’s right, more than $2 million. And there’s more.

Remember that black money trick Shireen saw?

(Winer and Floyd looking at logbook; money being washed)

HANSEN: So bundles of black bills?

SHIREEN: Yes, yes.

HANSEN: So walk me through this evidence.

(Voiceover) When Detective Dave Winer showed me the evidence, he said smuggling black money out of Africa was part of the scam three years ago.

(Winer and Hansen looking at evidence on table)

Det. WINER: And according to the doctor, he had seen some type of foot locker full of money that was black.

HANSEN: So this was some of the...

Det. WINER: Money as he called it. Yes, sir.

HANSEN: These are the—just pieces of paper died black.

Det. WINER: Pieces of paper, right. And they just uses this...

HANSEN: Shoe polish.

Det. WINER: Shoe polish? Liquid show polish.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Shoe polish to turn paper black, and bottles of supposedly special chemicals to turn it back into real money. Turns out the doctor had fallen for the same trick Shireen saw.

(Winer showing evidence; e-mail)

HANSEN: It was a doctor.

Det. WINER: Right.

HANSEN: You’d think he’d know better.

Det. WINER: He’s book smart.

HANSEN: Not street smart.

Det. WINER: Right.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) The detective says he tried to convince federal authorities to take the multimillion-dollar case, but they declined, even though Ojua’s logbooks contained detailed entries, names of the scammers overseas, names of US victims, the fortune they’d been promised, even the fake names Ojua was supposed to use when he met them.

(Winer showing logbook to Hansen; logbook entries)

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Meanwhile, the Texas doctor who had been ripped off was getting cold feet about testifying, so local prosecutors cut a deal with the suspect Kenneth Ojua. He paid the doctor back and the charges were dropped.  In other words, he walked, free to try to rip off other people like Shireen.

(Empty courtroom; photo of Ojua; Ojua walking in hotel room; Ojua and Hansen in hotel suite)

Mr. OJUA: (Hidden camera videotape) How are you doing?

SHIREEN: (Hidden camera videotape) I’m doing fine. Thank you.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And if the phone numbers in those logbooks are any indication, there may have been hundreds of them: 847, suburban Chicago; 617, Boston; 702, Las Vegas.

(Winer and Hansen looking at logbook; logbook entries)

HANSEN: So he’s operating all around the country?

Det. WINER: Yes, sir.

HANSEN: Hey, Kenneth.

Mr. OJUA: Yes?

HANSEN: How you doing?

HANSEN: (Voiceover) I wanted to ask Kenneth Ojua about the new information.

We found him at his apartment, where he’s on house arrest awaiting trial.

(Hansen nearing Ojua on sidewalk; Ojua unlocking door)

HANSEN: How you doing?

Mr. OJUA: Fine.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) He invites us in. But when I start asking about that list of victims all across the country, he doesn’t have much to say.

(Hansen entering apartment; Ojua and Hansen speaking)

HANSEN: When you were arrested in 2007, police found all these logs in your possession, these records, indicating for instance that these were contacts, these were targets of your scam?

Mr. OJUA: I got a lawyer. If you want to ask my lawyer a question, we’ll be glad to go to my lawyer.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Later, his lawyer told us Kenneth Ojua is innocent until proven guilty. And as for that logbook the police showed us, the lawyer said he didn’t know anything about it.

(Ojua and Hansen speaking; Winer and Hansen looking at logbook)

Det. WINER: Yes, sir.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And what about the story we heard about Shireen’s fortune being stored in an underground vault?

(Money)

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) It’s heavy, and it’s stored in one of the underground vaults.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) Rick Floyd, the lead detective in Greenville, says none of it it checks out.

(Floyd at computer)

Det. FLOYD: We don’t think there ever was a case of money.

HANSEN: Did you ever find the special storage vault?

Det. FLOYD: No, we did not.

HANSEN: Did you ever find a warehouse?

Det. FLOYD: No.

HANSEN: The trunk?

Det. FLOYD: No.

Woman #5: (Speaking on phone) And it’s stored in one of the underground...

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And what about that woman on the phone? She hasn’t been identified either. So what’s next for Kenneth Ojua?

(Ojua and camera in hotel suite)

Det. FLOYD: (Voiceover) Right now he has been indicted in South Carolina.

(TV monitors)

Det. FLOYD: But the Secret Service is looking into it and will most likely adopt the case.

HANSEN: So at this point it looks like this is going to become a federal prosecution.

Det. FLOYD: Right.

HANSEN: (Voiceover) And for Shireen, the victim who was brave enough to step forward even though she may never get her money back, finally a measure of satisfaction.

(Shireen at computer)

HANSEN: These guys drained your savings.

SHIREEN: Yes.

HANSEN: Embarrassed you.

SHIREEN: Right.

HANSEN: How did it feel for you...

(Voiceover) ...to see this guy put in handcuffs and arrested?

(Ojua and police officer walking)

SHIREEN: It make me feel really great. Finally some justice.

HANSEN: What do you say to people who say, ‘This could never happen to me.

I’m too smart for it.’

Deputy Chief MacNAMARA: We’re not as smart as we think we are when it comes to human emotions, and I would caution you that even the best of us be—can become victims.

(Voiceover) And they’re sometimes better at what they do than we are at what we do.

(Ojua and police officers walking)

HANSEN: Federal agents aren’t saying anything publicly about their investigation, but the challenge will be trying to track down the members of the crime ring, like Barrister Davis, who are based overseas.

© 2013 MSNBC Interactive. Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments