New Jersey man charged for role in Nigerian organized crime network

A Monmouth County, New Jersey, man has been indicted for laundering money on behalf of the Cape Town Zone of Black Axe, an alleged Nigerian organized crime network operating out of South Africa.

Andrew Suarez, 29, of Middletown, New Jersey, is charged by indictment with money laundering conspiracy, substantive money laundering counts, and aggravated identity theft. He is scheduled to appear today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel in Newark federal court.

According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, Suarez worked with conspirators to launder money to entities in the vicinity of Cape Town, South Africa, from August 2017 through December 2017.

Among the entities that employed Suarez was Abravoo Trading Company, an account controlled by a founding member of the notorious criminal enterprise Cape Town Zone of Black Axe, otherwise known as the Neo-Black Movement.

Black Axe members have been responsible for widespread internet-based fraud schemes, such as engaging in romance scams, using the victims of those scams to obtain money and laundering the proceeds of business email compromises.

Suarez opened up bank accounts in the United States, which were then used to conceal money obtained through business email compromises and other fraud schemes.

Suarez transferred the proceeds of the fraud schemes to other U.S. bank accounts and wired proceeds to bank accounts in Cape Town, South Africa.

To avoid detection, Suarez changed the information on some of his bank accounts, so the accounts listed the name and address of a victim.

Each of the money laundering charges carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the transfer, whichever is greater.

The aggravated identity theft count carries a mandatory two-year prison term, which must run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment, and a fine not to exceed $250,000.  

According to a BBC investigation, the Black Axe has been banned as a cult in Nigeria where it started in the 1970s as an anti-colonial student organization.

Authorities around the world have cracked down on the group’s illicit activities.

Sources have described the Black Axe as a highly organized global organization that operates across borders. In Italy, it has managed to push the mafia out of former strongholds and is allegedly associated with drug smuggling and human trafficking.

According to the US Department of Justice, the group has been running a sophisticated online dating scam and business email compromise scam operation from South Africa since at least 2011, raking in hundreds of millions of rand from victims across the globe.

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