Why Are They Not Jailed For The Rest Of Their Lives?
Many victims ask this simple question. Why don’t these criminals receive harsher sentences by courts around the world, but especially in Nigeria?
The answer to this question requires some background information.
What Is A Scammer?
We start with a basic question, what is a scammer?
A scammer is a criminal; usually part of a gang or organization, with the intent to steal money from their victims.
Scammers will do almost anything to get that money without regard to the harm or damage it does to the victims.
In other words, scammers or fraudsters are criminals!
What are the crimes that scammers typically commit?
The typical relationship scammer is what we will focus on. They are individuals, usually working in groups, that engage in several globally recognized crimes.
Here is a list of the typical crimes of a cyber-enabled criminal.
- CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD – they organize into teams and partnerships to conduct these crimes. They plan, hire additional services, buy resources, all with the intent to defraud. This is the crime of conspiracy, and usually it carries its own penalty.
- FRAUD – the purpose of any cyber-enabled or phone scam is to defraud one or more individuals, or a business, or a government entity. They use deception to create a set of conditions to make this possible.
- WIRE-FRAUD – engaging in deception over an electronic or wired communication systems. They use devices connected to the phone networks and over the internet to commit these crimes.
- BANK FRAUD – they send and receive money often through the banking systems around the world, and they typically use false or deceptive information to do it.
- MONEY LAUNDERING – they are actively involved in moving money for the purpose of hiding their unlawful practices.
- TORTURE – intentionally causing severe mental pain to their victims arising out of their criminal intent both during and after the execution of the crime (see below)
- MANSLAUGHTER – these criminals openly talk about how victims take their own lives because of the scams. Have foreknowledge of the possibility or even probability of the loss of life and still proceeding with their crimes would constitute manslaughter. At the very least, the scammer commits attempted manslaughter.
These are the typical scammers’ 7 Deadly Sins!
Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement’s goal. Most U.S. jurisdictions also require an overt act toward furthering the agreement.
Conspiracy generally carries a penalty on its own. In addition, conspiracies allow for derivative liability where conspirators can also be punished for the illegal acts carried out by other members, even if they were not directly involved. Thus, where one or more members of the conspiracy committed illegal acts to further the conspiracy’s goals, all members of the conspiracy may be held accountable for those acts.
Fraud is a false representation of a matter of fact—whether by words or by conduct, by false or misleading allegations, or by concealment of what should have been disclosed—that deceives and is intended to deceive another so that the individual will act upon it to her or his legal injury (such as lose money).
Fraud is commonly understood as dishonesty calculated for advantage. Fraud is a specific offense with certain features.
Fraud must be proved by showing that the defendant’s actions involved five separate elements: (1) a false statement of a material fact, (2) knowledge on the part of the criminal that the statement is untrue, (3) intent on the part of the defendant to deceive the alleged victim, (4) justifiable reliance by the alleged victim on the statement, and (5) injury to the alleged victim as a result.
The “wire” is any form of telecommunication: phone, fax, text message, radio, television, internet message, social media message, email, or any other form of airwave or cable communication. “Fraud” involves the use of intentional deception for monetary or personal gain.
Wire fraud is broad and includes any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds that are transmitted.
Typically, these are the four elements of wire fraud:
- The defendant created or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money or property
- The defendant did so with the intent to defraud
- It was reasonably foreseeable that the defendant would use wire communications
- The defendant did, in fact, use interstate/international wire communications
Bank fraud is defined as using deception to steal money or assets from a bank, financial institution, or a bank’s depositors. For legal purposes, a financial institution includes credit unions and banks that are federally insured. This includes banks, mortgage lending agencies, and other institutions that accept deposits of money or other financial assets.
In general, bank fraud may involve any deliberate action aimed at defrauding a financial institution or its customer. It may involve an intentional action aimed at receiving assets, money, securities, credits, or property from a financial institution through the use of pretense or false information.
Money laundering is the illegal process of making amounts of money generated by criminal activity, such as scams, drug trafficking, or terrorist funding, appear to have come from a legitimate source. The money from the criminal activity is considered dirty, and the process “launders” it to make it look clean.
Money laundering is a serious financial crime that is employed by criminals, conspirators, associates, or accessories.
- Money laundering is the illegal process of making “dirty” money appear legitimate instead of ill-gotten.
- Criminals use a wide variety of money-laundering techniques to make illegally obtained funds appear clean.
- Online banking and cryptocurrencies have made it easier for criminals to transfer and withdraw money without detection.
- The prevention of money laundering has become an international effort and now includes terrorist funding among its targets.
- For the purpose of this Declaration, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted by or at the instigation of a public official on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating him or other persons. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions to the extent consistent with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.
- Torture constitutes an aggravated and deliberate form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Most victims would agree that the psychological pain caused by these criminals would meet this definition.
Manslaughter involves the killing of another person, but it’s distinct from the crime of murder. Sometimes the line between manslaughter and murder isn’t clear.
Manslaughter is an unlawful killing that doesn’t involve malice aforethought—intent to seriously harm or kill or an extreme, reckless disregard for life. The absence of malice aforethought means that manslaughter involves less moral blame than either first- or second-degree murder. (But plenty argue that some instances of felony murder, a form of first-degree murder, involve less blameworthiness than some instances of manslaughter.) Thus, while manslaughter is a serious crime, the punishment for it is generally less than that for murder.
Some victims would argue that scammers commit murder, and in many places when someone dies as a result of a crime it is considered murder. However, these criminals do not intend for the victims to die, but neither do they do anything to prevent it. Thus manslaughter is a more appropriate crime.
Now that we have looked at the crimes that scammers commit, we can see that this is no small thing. These crimes are in fact so serious that we would logically think they deserve life in prison.
However, there is a serious problem.
The problem is not with the criminal, but rather with the criminal justice system worldwide.
Far too often these criminals are not being charged with all the crimes they commit. They are usually charged with either just fraud or fraud with money laundering.
This allows the court to take great latitude in sentencing because these are considered non-violent crimes. Especially with first-time offenders – of course, every victim knows a scammer is not a first-time offender, but the court can only look at the number of times the criminal was arrested and charged.
The result is a perception that these crimes are not really all that serious and for that reason do not deserve more severe penalties or sentences. This explains why these criminals in courts around the world are given light sentences or community service.
Contrast this with the case of money mules.
One of our directors, Sharon Armstrong, visited her romance scammer in Argentine and she was asked to carry “documents” back to New Zealand. In fact, it was drugs and she was arrested as a drug trafficker and she spent several years in prison. In some parts of the world, such as Cambodia, money mules caught in the same situation have been sentenced to death.
The solution to these situations is fairly simple, but it REQUIRES that victims actively participate.
One approach is for victims to write to their embassies in foreign countries to ask the prosecutors to add additional charges to match the full set of these crimes. Only through massive email writing campaigns can we get the local prosecutors to take this more seriously.
This also needs to be done in our own countries. Anyone can ask the court to be heard in the form of an Amicus brief that can be considered to help shine light on the seriousness of the crime. Since the judges are assigning the sentence, helping them understand how severe these crimes are can only help!
Another approach is to help support organizations such as SCARS which is already communicating with prosecutors and courts around the U.S. and worldwide.
In the end, it takes people working together to achieve results.
It is not about wasting time exposing scammers. It is about helping the criminal justice system everywhere understand how horrible these crimes are and how much impact they have on victims!
Begin by reporting every crime. Right now only about 1-3% of these crimes are ever reported. It will be taken much more seriously if 100% of these crimes were reported. Yes it is hard, but it is our duty!
If you are ever notified that there will be a trial, write a victim’s impact statement and make it clear to the court just how much harm the criminal did,