Algerian influencers jailed over Ukraine study-abroad student scam
Two Algerian social media influencers were sentenced on appeal on Tuesday to a year each in prison, with six months suspended, over a scam targeting 75 students seeking to study abroad, including in Ukraine before the Russian invasion, local media reported.
Among the charges faced by Farouk Boudjemline, known as Rifka, and Mohamed Aberkane, alias Stanley, were criminal association, forgery, theft, fraud and money laundering.
Their co-accused Numidia Lezoul faced the same charges but was acquitted.
Last January Algerian authorities announced the arrest of a criminal gang who scammed the students by setting up a fake education consultancy and travel abroad program.
Boudjemline, Aberkane and Lezoul were accused of participating in defrauding the students - who paid to study in Ukraine, Turkey and Russia - by promoting the scam on their social media sites.
The consultancy offered to register the students at universities abroad and to pay for their tuition and accommodation for a year, in exchange for a sum of 20,000 euros (US$22,830).
However, when the students arrived in the countries, they found university fees were only covered for three months and that they had only been provided accommodation for two nights at a hotel.
The influencers are well-known in the north African country, and were originally sentenced to one year each and fined the equivalent of 650 euros for promoting the fake education consultancy, referred to as the "Future Gate" agency.
Oussama Rezagui, the head of the agency, was given a six-year jail sentence, reduced on appeal from seven years, and a heavy fine.