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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (June 7, 2000 – PIDP/CPIS)---Possible victims of the Nigerian money scam have been identified in American Samoa and local authorities issued a warning on Monday to counterpart law agencies in the Pacific Islands region.

The Office of Territorial and International Criminal Intelligence and Drug Enforcement (OTICIDE) in conjunction with SPICIN (South Pacific Islands Criminal Intelligence Network) and the U.S. Interpol Pacific Sub-Bureau warned American Samoans and residents of the region about Nigerian financial fraud or advance fee scams and other suspected lucrative business deals and solicitations from professional con-artists.

The warning is not new as SPICIN has issued similar warnings in the past about the Nigerian con-artists who poses as officials of the Nigerian government or the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation.

Director of the American Samoa-based OTICIDE-SPICIN-INTERPOL, Mike Sala, said the warning was distributed to all member nations of SPICIN and also to liaison offices.

Also, the public was once again warned to stay away from Nigerian con-artists.

The fraud perpetrators promise huge profits to anyone willing to cooperate with them by sending money. According to Sala, at first only small amounts are sought and an impression is given that the promised profits are starting to flow.

"Eventually, a demand for a larger amount is aggressively pursued" and at that point the money disappears, he added.

Sala said a recent incident involved the transmission of money via bank wire transfers to a legitimate bank in New York. But he said once the money got to New York, it did not remain there long.

"The loss is guaranteed," he wrote, "for which there are nil hopes for recovery!"

Sala confirmed there are victims of the Nigerian scam in the territory, but he would not divulge their identities. The sums involved are reportedly substantial. Government authorities are presently investigating the situation.

The warning also mentioned the Hawai‘i ponzi scheme that bilked $40 million dollars from 4,000 people that participated in the Cayman Islands Investment Program.

Thirty to fifty Samoans were ripped off in that scheme, and the ranks of victims include people holding important positions in government offices, church groups, church ministries and the business community.

Federal prosecutors have made arrests in the Cayman Island scheme, including one Samoan woman (Montez Salamasina Tuia Ottley), but a trial has not yet begun.

Speaking of the financial con artists, SPICIN warned, "Not only are these people high class phonies, but they are professional thieves, con-artists, sophisticated crooks and manipulators whose main and only objective is to deprive you of your hard-earned money, or worst yet, influence you to use money that is not yours to begin with."

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