And in the end, they were spending their own money to purchase their own merchandise back," said Todd Williams, the Homeland Security agent.
For the textbook scam, the group targeted family owned businesses and many went out of business.
"I want you to assist me pay the bill," one note asked. J., who asked CNBC to identify her by her initials. Three were found guilty at trial and received sentences of up to 115 years in prison.
"He asked me about my family and I asked him about his. Four defendants remain fugitives, with three last known to be in Nigeria.
As the crime ring operated, they began to get more sophisticated and relied on prepaid cards to move money, instead of e-mules.
"It would all start where they would purchase compromised credit card data. They would create thousands of American Express Serve prepaid accounts.
Crime rings like this one have raked in billion, according to Trend Micro and that's expected to increase as West Africa, the region that includes Nigeria, is considered the new cybercrime hotbed.
"Over the last three years, we've seen a steady increase in cybercrime coming from the region.
So essentially these textbooks companies were getting the merchandise stolen from 'em.Johnson was unable to get her money back, but she did eventually remarry a different man she met through friends.The FBI is advising people to stop communicating with anyone who seems suspicious and to report their behavior to the Internet Crime Complaint Center."What these are, are really finely tuned, sophisticated schemes that are targeted to separate you from your money," said Mark Nunnikhoven, vice president of cloud research at cybersecurity company Trend Micro.They recently released a report on West African cybercrime, which includes Nigeria.Once they were able to acquire those accounts, that in turn would become their infrastructure that they needed to be able to move their illicit proceeds," said Todd Williams.