Photo credit: Mark Mathosian, via Creative Commons

By Benjamin Rubin

 

Scam emails claiming to be from Nigerian royalty were all the rage in the Internet’s early age. But in New York City today a real-life Nigerian prince is being accused of bilking job seekers out of tens of thousands of dollars.

Osmond Eweka is a member of the Nigerian royal family, law enforcement officials have alleged. Eweka is being accused of defrauding more than 250 people out of tens of thousands of dollars, using employment fraud schemes. Prosecutors say that he set up fake employment agencies and bilked the job-seekers out of over $50,000.

Eweka was scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday but the Civil Court judge handling the case announced that he made an agreement with attorneys to delay the proceedings, with Nov. 8 as the next court date.

Eweka and his associates were said to have set up offices in prestigious locations, like the Empire State Building. People who came to them looking for jobs were then sent to seek jobs that would have been open to the public to apply for, like attempting to get fire guard license at the city’s Fire Department headquarters in Brooklyn.

The applicants were told to begin the process with Eweka’s agency, and then wait to hear back about whether there was a job offer. Those who did hear back were sent on what officials described as wild goose chases. The agency would send them to real businesses that had no affiliation with the agency. There were no jobs at those places, prosecutors have asserted.

Prosecutors say that the job-seekers were charged fees by the agency for uniforms and training. But there just weren’t any jobs behind the promises. Eweka’s attorney, Thomas A. Kenniff, disputed the prosecutors’ allegations, telling the New York Times that “The reality is that Mr. Eweka provided honest services to many satisfied clients.”

Eweka used fake names during his interactions, according to prosecutors, so it is hard to tell if he used his royalty as part of his scheme. Immigrant communities throughout the city often deal with scams targeting those seeking employment.