Aug 11, 2022 - News

How Nigerian scammers stole $500k from VCU

Illustration of a repeating pattern of computers with skulls on the screens

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The FBI says it’s secured the extradition of three Nigerian citizens accused of tricking Virginia Commonwealth University into wiring them almost $500,000.

What’s happening: The ploy was a little more sophisticated than the run-of-the-mill “Nigerian prince” scam, according to charging documents.

  • The men allegedly impersonated an employee at Kjellstrom and Lee, a major local construction firm that’s built an array of big projects for the school.
  • Corresponding via email, they convinced a VCU employee to transfer $469,819 to an overseas account, claiming their local bank was tied up in an audit.
  • “Please kindly notify us before our next payment is issued,” the scammers wrote.

Details: VCU sent the wire transfer in December 2018 and didn’t get word there might be a problem until contacted by its bank the following month.

  • By then, nearly all of the money was gone, according to court records.

What they're saying: “Through insurance, VCU recovered a significant amount of the funds. Additional safeguards were put in place to protect against this type of fraud,” university spokesman Brian McNeill tells Axios.

  • The FBI said in a press release that the three men also perpetrated similar scams against universities, local governments and construction companies in North Carolina and Texas, stealing more than $5 million.

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