According to Louisiana's Slidell Police Department, Michael Neu is not affiliated with any African royalty. After an 18-month investigation, local investigators concluded that he's just a con artist with a prolific track record. Last Thursday, the 67-year-old was arrested and charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering for serving as a middleman in a variation of the so-called Nigerian prince scam, NOLA.com reports.
The scheme Neu is charged with running predates the days of dial up and usually follows the same narrative. In one iteration, someone claims that a benefactor—often a Nigerian prince—left you an inheritance, but that your bank account information is needed to transfer the funds. In some versions, the scammers ask victims to send money that will later be reimbursed along with the funds—though it never is, and the funds don't exist.
Neu's arrest is notable because—while the Nigerian prince scam has reached a certain level of cultural saturation—very few perpetrators get caught. The Slidell Police Department said in its statement that the investigation is ongoing but "extremely difficult as many leads have led to individuals who live outside of the United States." According to the New York Times, some of the money was wired to Nigeria.
It's unclear why a local police department's financial crimes unit took on the case, as Neu allegedly participated in defrauding people all over the country. A public information officer in Slidell did not return a request for comment or for charging documents that detailed exactly what Neu's involvement was as a middleman, or how much money he swindled.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Slidell's police chief, Randy Fandal, said in a statement. "Never give out personal information over the phone, through e-mail, cash checks for other individuals, or wire large amounts of money to someone you don’t know. 99.9 percent of the time, it's a scam."
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