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US man scammed of $7m when he tried to claim 'inheritance' in Singapore

US man scammed of $7m when he tried to claim 'inheritance' in Singapore
The elderly victim made the transfers to various bank accounts from April 2020 to December 2021.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

An elderly man sent about US$5.3 million (S$7 million) to multiple accounts over more than a year, after he was told he could claim a purported inheritance of property in Singapore.

The scammers then spent almost all of the money on items that included luxury goods at Louis Vuitton and at an Apple Store.

A man from Georgia in the US was arrested on April 25 in relation to the case.

Odera Odabi, 54, who also goes by the name Chief Odera Odabi, faces one charge for conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, and another for money laundering.

He was brought before a federal court where he was ordered to be detained pending trial. He is expected to be brought before a federal court in New York at a later date.

In a release on April 25, the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York said that Odabi and his unidentified co-conspirators had allegedly lied to the victim that he needed to send them the money to get a "Certificate of Origination" from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Through text messages, e-mails and telephone calls, the victim was allegedly told by the scammers that the certificate was needed to claim the property in Singapore.

The elderly victim, who is a resident of Suffolk County in the state of New York, made the transfers to various bank accounts from April 2020 to December 2021.

The transfers included US$2 million to accounts in the name of Odabi's companies Oh-Dabi Properties and American Commodity Exchange.

Only US$197,000 that was frozen by SunTrust Bank in September 2021 when it suspected fraud has been recovered so far.

The victim was not named in the release.

The IMF has posted warnings on its website of scams using its name, including those involving certificates it does not issue.


It said: "Contrary to what is stated in these scam e-mails, letters, or phone conversations, the IMF does not authorise, verify, monitor, or assist in contract or inheritance payments between third parties and/or Governments, nor does it endorse the activities of any bank, financial institution, or other public or private agency."

Mr Breon Peace, the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the authorities would spare no effort to bring scammers who target the elderly to justice.

"Odabi and his co-conspirators callously abused the trust of an elderly victim to line their pockets with millions in stolen cash," he said. 

"This office and our partners will work tirelessly to ensure that those who prey upon some of the most vulnerable members of our community are called to account for their crimes."

Mr Michael J. Driscoll, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) New York Field Office, said the number of scams targeting the elderly in the US is alarming.

He said: "Financial frauds targeting elderly members of our communities are sadly rising at an alarming rate. The FBI is resolute in ensuring those who financially exploit the elderly face the consequences in the criminal justice system."

If convicted, Odabi may be jailed for up to 40 years.

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

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