He had progressed far with his education but not far enough to get into a university in Cameroon.At age 26 and with no other prospects at home, he secured a short-term visa in 2003 and prepared to leave Cameroon to find his fortune.He had no inkling that he was about to become a 419 criminal. Advance fee frauds are scams in which con artists ask their marks to pay small monetary amounts up front in return for the promise of greater rewards – financial, romantic or professional – in the near future.
He has a gentle, friendly manner and a genuine and flirtatious smile.
He stops to greet friends as he makes his way to the meeting spot, an off-license bar.
There is nothing in his neat and conservative dress, down-to-earth attitude, or ever-present good-guy smile that indicates this soft-spoken man has been at the heart of scams worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in half a dozen countries.
He came from a poor family and was the first of his relatives to travel abroad to seek economic advancement, he says.
His father is a farmer, and his mother is a petty trader.
In an act of great hope and sacrifice, they borrowed 2 million Central African francs (,125) to send their son to China to teach English with the expectation that he would earn money, make them proud and lift the family out of poverty.
He was excited about the opportunity to make his own money and to help his family, he says.
The 36-year-old man is an international con artist.
He engages in a scamming practice locally known as 419 (4-1-9).