Slidell resident Michael Neu, part of an alleged "Nigerian Prince" Internet scam, was discovered by police because of a complaint from Dodge City, Kansas.
Neu, 67, was booked on 269 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering in late November, the culmination of an 18-month investigation in which Slidell Police say that Neu acted as the middle man.
Victims were instructed to wire money through a bank transfer to Neu, who would the forward the money to Nigeria through Western Union, MoneyGram or some other service.
Slidell Police spokesman Daniel Seuzeneu said in a news release that Neu was initially a victim of a so-called romance scheme. Someone in Nigeria using the name Maria Mendez, who sends thousands of emails every day, convinced him to begin transferring money to her from third party individuals, like the person from Dodge City who complained, Seuzeneau said.
But Neu kept a percentage of the money himself, Seuzeneau said. Investigators had warned him early in the investigation that he was acting illegally and thought he might have been unaware that he was breaking the law, Seuzeneau said. But he continued to do so, using 10 different bank accounts and eventually getting banned by Western Union, Seuzeneau said.
He conducted three to four transactions per week, worth at least $250,000 , although Seuzeneau said police think the amount will be higher.
The Slidell Police Department is working with the U.S. Secret Service on the investigation, which is ongoing.
Neu is being held at St. Tammany Parish Jail on $30,000 bond.