African TOC groups have developed quickly since the 1980s due to the globalization of the world’s economies and the great advances in communications technology. Easier international travel, expanded world trade, and financial transactions that cross national borders have enabled them to branch out of local and regional crime to target international victims and develop criminal networks within more prosperous countries and regions. The political, social, and economic conditions in African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia have helped some enterprises expand globally.

African criminal enterprises have been identified in several major metropolitan areas in the U.S., but are most prevalent in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Newark, New York, and Washington, D.C. Nigerian criminal enterprises are the most significant of these groups and operate in more than 80 countries of the world, including the United States. They are among the most aggressive and expansionist international criminal groups and are primarily engaged in drug trafficking and financial frauds.

The most profitable activity of the Nigerian groups is drug trafficking—delivering heroin from Southeast and Southwest Asia into Europe and the U.S., and cocaine from South America into Europe and South Africa. The associated money laundering has helped establish Nigerian criminal enterprises worldwide. Nigerian groups are also infamous for committing financial frauds globally. These schemes are diverse, targeting individuals, businesses, and government offices. Examples of these activities include insurance fraud involving auto accidents; healthcare billing scams; life insurance schemes; bank, check, and credit card fraud; advance-fee schemes, known as 4-1-9 letters; and document fraud to develop false identities. The advent of the Internet and e-mail have made their crimes more profitable and prevalent.

One such prevalent crime is Business E-mail Compromise (BEC), a sophisticated scam targeting businesses working with foreign suppliers or regularly performing wire transfer payments. The scam is carried out by compromising legitimate business e-mail accounts through social engineering or by computer intrusion techniques to conduct an unauthorized transfer of funds. Most victims report using checks as a common method of payment. The fraudsters will use the method most commonly associated with their victim’s normal business practice. Read more about Business E-mail Compromise.

Besides using the standard Enterprise Theory of Investigation (ETI) and RICO investigative tools, the FBI participates in different working groups and initiatives to combat African organized crime on an international level.