Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Law enforcement officials across the country arrested more than a dozen people Thursday after the Justice Department unsealed a 252-count indictment accusing 80 people in the United States and Nigeria of attempting to steal millions of dollars through Internet scams.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California revealed the indictment during a news conference, saying most of the defendants are located in Nigeria.
Prosecutors said the accused attempted to use business email compromise and romance scams to scam victims -- some elderly -- out of at least $40 million. The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money and aggravated identity theft.
"In the BEC scams, the fraudsters will often hack a company's email system, impersonate company personnel, and direct payments to bank accounts that funnel money back to the fraudsters in Nigeria," U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna said during the news conference.
"In the romance scams, victims think they are developing a dating relationship, when in fact they are just being tricked into sending money to the fraudsters."
Hanna said prosecutors believe it is the largest such case of fraud in U.S. history.
Of those arrested, 11 were in Southern California, two were already in federal custody on other charges and one was arrested earlier in the week, KABC-TV in Los Angeles reported.