After an 18-month investigation, Slidell police arrested 67-year-old Michael Neu on 269 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering after he helped scam people out of thousands of dollars as a middleman in one of the well-known “Nigerian prince” internet scams, a Slidell police spokesman said in a news release Thursday.
The common scam revolves around getting an email from a Nigerian prince or other exotic figure claiming the recipient has been named a beneficiary in a will and is in line to inherit an estate worth at least $1 million. Personal information is then requested to prove the recipient is the one named in the will and to speed up the money's transfer. That information is then used to con people out of their own money.
“Most people laugh at the thought of falling for such a fraud, but law enforcement officials report annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes,” the police release said.
The release said that Neu has participated in hundreds of financial scams over the internet and phone and has wired some of his money to co-conspirators in Nigeria.
The investigation is ongoing, “but is extremely difficult as many leads have led to individuals who live outside of the United States,” the news release said.
Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said the arrest should serve as a reminder for people to be wary of being asked for personal information.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he said. “Never give out personal information over the phone or through email, 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.”