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U.S. indicts 5 Nigerians in $300m fraud, Akintomide extradited from Canada

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Five Nigerians, one of them extradited from Canada and three Americans have been indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for their role in a fraudulent “sweepstakes” or lotto scam with an intended loss in excess of $300 million.

The Nigerian extradited from Canada on Thursday is known as Harry Cole and he has several aliases, according to a statement by the Justice Department.

The 50-year-old Nigerian, normally resident in Canada, is known as Akintomide Ayoola Bolu, John King, Big Bro, and Egbon.

He will now face federal charges for his alleged role.

A federal grand jury indictment, returned in September 2018, charges Cole with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud (Sweepstakes) and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Each count upon conviction calls for up to 20 years in federal prison.

Cole, who remains in federal custody, is one of eight defendants charged in connection with the scheme.

The others include Nigerian Akintola Akinmadeyemi; Americans Joel Calvin and Clarence Barefield (aka CJ), both resident in Austin and Mesquite, TX, resident Donna Lundy.

Others are Nigerian citizens and Canadian residents Emmanuel Olawale Ajayi (aka Wale, aka Walata), Tony Dada Akinbobola (aka Lawrence D Awoniyi, aka Boss Tony, aka Toyin) and Bolaji Akinwunmi Oyewole (aka BJ, aka Beejay).

According to the indictment, the defendants carried out their sweepstakes scheme from 2012 to 2016.

Cole allegedly purchased lists from Lundy of elderly potential victims and their addresses. He and other conspirators based in the Toronto, Ontario Canada metropolitan area sent packages containing fraudulent sweepstakes information to conspirators residing in the U.S.

The packages contained thousands of mailers, which U.S.-based conspirators sent to victims notifying them that they had won sweepstakes. Each mailer included a fraudulent check issued in the name of the victim, usually in the amount of $8,000, and a pre-addressed envelope.

Victims were instructed to deposit the check into their bank account, immediately withdraw between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars in cash or money orders, and send the money to a “sweepstakes representative” to facilitate the victim collecting his or her prize.

By the time the victim was notified by the bank that the deposited check was fraudulent, the cash or money order had been sent by the victim and received by the defendants or conspirators.

The intended loss from this scheme was over $300 million, with an actual loss of more than $900,000.

The indictment also alleges that from June 2015 through June 2016, Emmanuel Ajayi led a Stolen Identity Refund Fraud (SIRF) scheme in which over 1,200 fraudulent Income Tax Returns were filed using stolen Personal Identifying Information (PII) requesting $25 million in tax refunds.

Ajayi used bank accounts involved in the sweepstakes scheme to receive refunds and funnel the money to conspirators in the U.S. An IRS analysis determined that this scheme resulted in the actual loss of approximately $3.4 million paid from the U.S. Treasury.

In order to acquire the money generated by the Sweepstakes and SIRF schemes, the conspirators operated a money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. That conspiracy employed knowing and unknowing participants to conduct financial transactions with the goals of moving the proceeds from both fraudulent schemes outside of the U.S. without detection by law enforcement.

Defendants Akinbobola, Ajayi, and Oyewole are considered fugitives.

On March 9, 2020, Akinmadeyemi was sentenced to ten years in federal prison. On May 27, 2020, Barefield was sentenced to eight years in federal prison. Both were ordered to pay, jointly and severally, $111,870.25 in restitution.

Defendants Calvin and Lundy, who pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy charge, are scheduled for sentencing in Austin on March 9, 2021, before U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel.

U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Acting Special Agent in Charge Roderick Benson, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Houston Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio; and, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Houston Division, announced Harry Cole’s extradition on Friday.

“If you defraud Americans, it doesn’t matter where you are in the world. The United States government will work tirelessly to find you, extradite you, and hold you accountable for your crimes,” stated U.S. Attorney Bash.

“Today’s extradition of Harry Cole demonstrates the power of the American judicial system,” IRS-CI Acting Special Agent in Charge Benton. “Despite the fact that Cole was living in Canada, special agents were able to track him because of our strong relationships with our international law enforcement agencies and bring him to justice.”

“HSI is committed to using our broad authority and global presence to bring international fugitives to justice,” said HSI Special Agent in Charge Folden. “Today’s extradition of Harry Cole demonstrates that HSI and our international law enforcement partners will be diligent in our efforts to locate and hold accountable those individuals who defraud U.S. citizens.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is charged with defending the nation’s mail system from illegal use, no matter where those crimes originate,” said USPIS Inspector in Charge Gonzalez. “This scheme targeted one of our country’s most vulnerable populations, the elderly. Postal Inspectors will continue to work tirelessly with our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners to investigate these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.”

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Tens of thousands protest in Belarus capital

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Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Sunday despite authorities deploying a heavy police presence.

The protest came a day after officers detained hundreds of demonstrators at a women’s march in the capital.

The opposition movement has kept up a wave of large-scale demonstrations every Sunday since President Alexander Lukashenko won a disputed victory in August 9 polls.

People holding red-and-white protest flags gathered at the “March of Justice” that occupied the whole of a central avenue and walked towards the heavily guarded Palace of Independence, where Lukashenko has his offices.

They held placards with slogans such as “Cowards beat up women” and “Get out!”.

Before the march, police and internal troops had positioned military trucks and armoured personnel carriers in the city center and set up barbed wire.

Riot police in black balaclavas sporadically detained protesters carrying flags and signs at the start, while some people took shelter in a shopping mall and in a fast-food restaurant to escape arrest.

The Viasna rights group said at least 16 had been detained in Minsk as well as eight at protests in other cities.

The government ordered a reduction in mobile internet coverage during the event while central metro stations were closed.

The mass protest came after riot police cracked down on peaceful women demonstrators on Saturday who were wearing shiny accessories for their so-called “Sparkly March.”

They dragged protesters into vans, lifted some women off their feet and carrying them.

Belarusian interior ministry spokeswoman Olga Chemodanova said Sunday that police had detained 415 people on that march in Minsk and 15 in other cities for breaking rules on mass demonstrations. She said 385 had been released.

– ‘Worth fighting for’ -The scale of Saturday’s detentions prompted the opposition’s Coordination Council to warn of a “new phase in the escalation of violence against peaceful protesters.”

Among those detained was one of the most prominent faces of the protest movement, 73-year-old activist Nina Baginskaya, although she was later released.

The aggressive police tactics prompted an opposition Telegram channel, Nexta, which has more than 2 million subscribers, to publish what it said was a list of the names and ranks of more than 1,000 police.

Protesters have sought to expose the identity of police who appear at demonstrations in plain clothes or in uniforms without insignia or name badges, trying to pull off their masks and balaclavas.

Opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who claimed victory over Lukashenko in the polls and has taken shelter in Lithuania, on Saturday said Belarusians were ready to strip police obeying “criminal orders” of anonymity.

Lukashenko has dismissed opposition calls for his resignation and sought help from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has promised law enforcement backup if needed and a $1.5 billion loan.

Tikhanovskaya is set to meet European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday as the EU prepares sanctions against those it blames for rigging the election and the regime’s violent crackdown on protesters.

Authorities have jailed many of Tikhanovskaya’s allies who formed the leadership of the Coordination Council or driven them out of the country.

One of her campaign partners, Maria Kolesnikova, has been imprisoned and charged with undermining national security.

She released a message to protesters on Sunday saying: “Freedom is worth fighting for. Don’t be afraid to be free!”.

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WORLD NEWS

Trump to quickly replace late US Supreme Court justice

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US President Donald Trump signaled his intention on Saturday to move forward quickly with a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died after a long battle with cancer.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump said in a tweet also tagging the official GOP account. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

Ginsburg’s Friday death touched off a firestorm from partisans on both sides, with Republican voters eager to see a conservative replacement.

Democrats however have cried foul, citing Republican’s own precedent from 2016 that Supreme Court Justices should not be confirmed during an election year. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016.

Other Senate Republicans have said they would honor it going forward.

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election. And I’ve got a pretty good chance of being the Judiciary [chairman]. Hold the tape,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said during an interview at the Atlantic Festival in 2018.

McConnell whose Senate majority has confirmed a record number of judges to the federal bench  has long insisted he would not let the precedent stop him from sending a nominee to the high court should there be an opening.

Just hours after her death, he confirmed his intention to move forward with a replacement.

“Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday. “Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

US President Donald Trump signaled his intention on Saturday to move forward quickly with a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died after a long battle with cancer.

“We were put in this position of power and importance to make decisions for the people who so proudly elected us, the most important of which has long been considered to be the selection of United States Supreme Court Justices,” Trump said in a tweet also tagging the official GOP account. “We have this obligation, without delay!”

Ginsburg’s Friday death touched off a firestorm from partisans on both sides, with Republican voters eager to see a conservative replacement.

Democrats however have cried foul, citing Republican’s own precedent from 2016 that Supreme Court Justices should not be confirmed during an election year. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denied a hearing on Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to replace conservative icon Antonin Scalia who died in February 2016.

Other Senate Republicans have said they would honor it going forward.

“If an opening comes in the last year of President Trump’s term, and the primary process has started, we’ll wait to the next election. And I’ve got a pretty good chance of being the Judiciary [chairman]. Hold the tape,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said during an interview at the Atlantic Festival in 2018.

McConnell whose Senate majority has confirmed a record number of judges to the federal bench  has long insisted he would not let the precedent stop him from sending a nominee to the high court should there be an opening.

Just hours after her death, he confirmed his intention to move forward with a replacement.

“Americans re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we pledged to work with President Trump and support his agenda, particularly his outstanding appointments to the federal judiciary,” McConnell said in a statement Friday. “Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s nominee will receive a vote on the floor of the United States Senate.”

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WORLD NEWS

Girl dies after her teacher flogged her for getting two math questions wrong

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A schoolgirl has died after allegedly being beaten by her teacher for failing to answer two maths questions correctly.

The 10-year-old girl, identified by her surname Zhang, was a student at a primary school in the city of Guangyuan, central China.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the teacher, identified by the surname Wang, beat the girl on September 10.

Zhang was beaten on her palms four times and ordered to kneel for four minutes.

 

Girl dies after her teacher flogged her for getting two math questions wrong

 

Feeling dizzy, she was sent to the hospital by her grandmother and the teacher and was pronounced dead later that day at 3.30 pm.

She also had her ears pulled and her head beaten.

Medical experts found no wounds and an investigation into her death is underway.

The Cangxi county government has set up a task force and the teacher has been suspended from work, along with the school’s principal.

The victim’s grandmother told local media that she had a twin sister who was in the same class. She said Zhang looked close to fainting during the beating.

The grandmother also mentioned that Zhang was scared of her maths teacher, who she claimed often gave corporal punishment to students.

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