2

Jessica Nabongo is an "influencer" on the popular social media apps instagram, twitter, and Facebook.

She marketed herself as attempting to be the first black woman to visit every country. Her "brand" is based on this phrase. She gives speeches about being the first..., sells photography branded "first..." and sells consultations on travel, branded "first...."

While she was attempting to visit every country, another woman named Spotts was verified as already visiting every country from 1979-2018.

Nabongo has internal connections with the media and has intimidated them out of covering Spotts the way she should have been covered. Detroit media and tourism continued calling Nabongo "first" on live broadcasts until outrage grew against them. She also manipulated naive interns into posting "first...." Most have stopped but the Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook posts continue. Nabongo's refusal to acknowledge, causes her followers to bully Ms. Spotts. Nabongo has continued to raise money, obtain sponsors, and deceive unaware media, under the false pretense that she's going to be "first" black woman to visit every country.

Is this fraud?

Wonnie Spotts, the first women to visit every country

List of African-American firsts

  • A fine detail: New countries are created and eliminated on a regular basis through international conflicts. The recognition of some "nations" is in disputed as well. The list of countries Nabongo has visited or will visit is almost certainly different from the list that Spotts visited. – abelenky Jun 28 at 14:04
  • Assuming the claim is indeed false, I can see why you would call it "fake", but I don't see any sense in which it is "news". – Nate Eldredge Sep 5 at 22:04
8

There is no law in the US that says you must tell the truth on the internet.

Some places where one must tell the truth are:

  • When speaking to police, the FBI, and most government agencies
  • When filing your taxes with the IRS
  • In certain business contracts
  • When testifying before Congress

But on the internet, you can claim to be the first man on the moon with impunity. If someone is gullible enough to believe you and send you money, that is their fault and responsibility.


As far as eating a Pangolin, why should she "admit" it, when it was documented on Instagram? There is no duty to officially apologize for it. You can try to report her to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which enforces the Endangered Species Act, but as it occurred outside the USA, they will be powerless.


Her claims are dubious, and possibly incorrect. Her treatment of an endangered animal is reprehensible. However, you posted this to a law site, asking about "reporting it" (to some sort of authority), and tagged it "criminal law".

Her behavior is troubling, but I don't see anything that is remotely illegal or criminal.

  • If someone is raising money under false pretences then that is probably fraud, although you would have to look carefully at exactly what they are claiming at the point where they are asking for the money. – Paul Johnson Jun 28 at 13:51
  • 1
    @PaulJohnson is correct, collecting money on the basis of lies is fraud. People have run GoFundMe accounts under false pretenses, for example, and subsequently been found guilty of fraud in a court of law. You don't have to tell the truth on the internet, but it gets a whole lot dicier when money is involved. – Nuclear Wang Jun 28 at 14:23
  • @abelenky, the travel organizations understand that Yugoslavia is now multiple countries and Ms. Spotts visited capitals which are now states. That counts as visiting the country. I belong to one of the travel organizations and this was discussed and agreed upon. As for the Pangolin, I mentioned that to show her deceptive nature. The animal protection agencies do not like her behavior especially since she has claimed to a conservationist on Instagram. This is why she owes more of an apology than others. – Try D Jun 28 at 14:26
  • 1
    You're saying that Spotts never visited Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, and now suggest that Nabongo should be arrested and criminally prosecuted for making an untrue statement, which is, in a very technical sense, actually true. Further, some of Spotts travels have been called into question because she is missing records from the 70's and 80's source – abelenky Jun 28 at 15:00
  • @abelenky The records were produced to an archivist that validated her claim. Encyclopedia submissions are in process, like Wiki. Records can't be produced to the public on blogs. The state department is aware of her travel and there is a film regarding it. – Try D Jun 28 at 15:10
5

The conduct described is unlikely to be a crime, although it is likely that it is a violation of a consumer protection act such as a state deceptive trade practices act which imposes non-criminal consequences including the right to obtain injunctions and impose money damages and attorneys' fees in cases where someone makes false statements to obtain a good or service in a way that is defined more broadly than common law fraud limited narrowly to harm caused in he transaction itself.

In most circumstances, fraud is only actionable if it is not just false, but causes someone to justifiably rely upon a false statement of a material fact to their detriment, although some criminal fraud statutes are more lenient. Even then, many criminal fraud statutes and statutes authorizing non-criminal action, such as the Lanham Act require a showing that the false statement harm a competitor which wouldn't be very well defined in this case.

If it is a crime at all, it would be some sort of crime relating to misrepresentations in connection with raising charitable funds, perhaps under the federal mail and wire fraud statute.

Determining which jurisdiction's law applies to this conduct on the Internet is a non-trivial exercise, as it the problem of convincing someone to take action or paying an attorney to take the case.

A more moderate response that is more likely to prevail would be to complain about a Terms of Service (TOS) violation to the platform used to promote these statements.

  • Someone suggested this.....WIRE FRAUD :Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. – Try D Jun 28 at 16:21
  • ohwilleke, thanks for the very informative answer. – Try D Jun 28 at 16:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.