updated 3/14/2011 2:10:33 PM ET 2011-03-14T18:10:33

A 31-year-old Nigerian citizen has been sentenced to more than 12 years in U.S. federal prison for taking part in an Internet “advance fee” scam and ordered to pay over $1 million to his victims, according to federal authorities.

In this type scam, also known as the classic Nigerian scam, the cybercriminal persuades a victim to pay money (an “advance fee”), usually via Western Union, in order to get a larger sum of money – money that never materializes. The money the victim sends to the cybercrooks also vanishes. Advanced fee scams were the third most common type of scam reported to the FBI last year, according to an FBI report.

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In February, a jury found Okpako Mike Diamreyan, who also lived in Accra, Ghana guilty of three counts of wire fraud stemming from the scheme, according to David Fein, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut. In addition to his prison term a federal judge last week ordered him to pay restitution in the amount of U.S. $1,021,560.74.

Authorities said they have identified 67 victims of Diamreyan’s scheme and conservatively estimate that he bilked his victims out of more than $1.3 million. The case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service of the United States Department of Defense.

From approximately August 2004 through August 2009, Diamreyan and others engaged in advance fee scams against a resident of Connecticut and others around the country. As part of the scam, Diamreyan sent a number of fraudulent email messages claiming he had a “consignment” stored in Ghana containing amounts ranging from $11.5 million to $23.4 million.

Using different identities including Prince Nana Kamokai of Sierra Leone, General Odu Kuffour of Ghana, and the Rev. Dr. Richard Camaro, airport director in Accra, Ghana, Diamreyan offered the victims 20 percent of the money if they’d help him transfer the money to the U.S. He even sent the victims fraudulent documents to persuade them that the money existed.

“This defendant and his accomplices preyed on vulnerable victims in Connecticut, the United States and around the world, leaving many individuals and their families in financial ruin,” said Fein in a statement.

“The lengthy prison term imposed today should send a strong message to others who intend to commit similar crimes –we will pursue these cases wherever they lead us and bring you to justice.”

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