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Couple charged in $13 million Nigerian scam

A Florida couple is accused of running a $13 million scam that had ties to Nigerian mobsters.
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It is a scam so complicated police have to draw a diagram to explain it.

Fort Lauderdale police have arrested a North Lauderdale couple, who are accused of running a $13 million scam that had ties to Nigerian mobsters.

Here's how the scam worked, according to police:

Using classified ads and Craig's list, Plenord St. Fort and his wife, Sandra, would offer jobs to victims looking for work as maids.

The St. Forts and the victim would agree to a monthly salary. Soon a check would arrive, but in an amount far in excess of the agreed salary. The unsuspecting victim was instructed to use the remainder of the money to pay rent to a landlord and otherwise manage the home.

The rent money, according to instructions, was to be sent by Western Union money order. The original check was a phony, police claim, despite the fact the check would clear.

Meanwhile, using a code, the St. Forts would intercept the payment to the non-existent landlord. That money would be sent to their handlers in Nigeria, who would in turn send money orders to Haiti with the St. Forts' cut of the deal, investigators allege.

Det. Randall Pelham said the couple operated for about a year and were producing 12 to 50 phony checks per day.

These were checks with legitimate routing numbers allegedly stolen from major public or private institutions. The St Forts, according to police, had a home office full of printers, blank check paper, hundreds of routing numbers and names of potential victims.

"When we went to serve warrants and searched the house they had lists of identities, checks, check paper, checks in the printer," Pelham said. "They were printing them out when we came in."

The scam started in Nigeria, a hot bed of criminal activity. The African nation has become a haven for scammers who have collected stolen credit cards, personal information and banking account numbers.

Officials said the St. Forts were basically operating a local franchise for the Nigerian mob.

The couple was arrested Wednesday, and they have been charged with fraud.