An American woman who was held captive for over a year in Nigeria has been rescued, BBC News reported. She was lured there by a Nigerian man posing as a romantic suitor on social media. In what is being called a “romance scam,” authorities said that at some point before February 2019, Chukwuebuka Obiaku, 34, made contact with the unidentified woman via Facebook and said that he was romantically interested in her. Police spokesman Frank Mba said that the man persuaded the woman to come to Nigeria “under the pretext of love.”
In May 2019, they married. What happened after that remains unclear, but at some point, Obiaku allegedly forced the woman into a Lagos hotel. There, the 46-year-old was allegedly confined to her room for the next 16 months.
“He also forcefully collected and took control of her credit and debit cards as well as the operation of her bank accounts including the receipt of her monthly retirement benefits and allowances over the period of 15 months,” Mba said.
Obiaku allegedly scammed the woman, who was described only as a retired civil servant from Washington, D.C., out of $48,000. Mba also said that Obiaku sexually abused the woman.
Further, he allegedly “used the victim as a front to defraud her associates and other foreign personalities and companies.” It remains unclear how many associates Obiaku may have defrauded or how much money he may have scammed from them.
Mba described Obiaku as an “internet fraudster” who had scammed “many people locally and internationally,” according to Nigerian newspaper The Vanguard. He faces unidentified criminal charges, including an unspecified cybercrime charge.
The circumstances of the woman’s rescue remain unclear. Police would only say that a “civic-minded” Nigerian alerted authorities, according to BBC News. A Police Intelligence Response Team acted on the tip and rescued the woman, according to the network.
Nigeria is so notorious for online scams that, as Scamwatch reported, online scams originating in the country even have a name in internet parlance: “419 scams,” which is a reference to the section of Nigeria’s criminal code that deals with fraud. Promising nonexistent money, jobs, business opportunities, or marriages, among other lures, scammers gain the confidence of their victims and then use various means to separate them from their money.
And in a crime similar to that which victimized the unidentified American woman, last month police said they rescued a Filipina woman who had come to Nigeria in search of romance after meeting a man on Facebook, only to be held against her will, this time for six months.