There was a huge bust of suspects that focused on business email compromise (BEC) scams, U.S. law enforcement officials said.
The bust was part of an international law enforcement operation that netted 74 people.
In the U.S., officials arrested 42, 29 in Nigeria, and one each in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland. The operation, dubbed “Wire Wire” and conducted over a six-month period, also resulted in the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and the disruption and recovery of roughly $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers, said officials at the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the FBI.
Some of the suspects, police said, are believed to have been involved in schemes targeting businesses of all sizes, while others targeted individual victims.
DoJ officials said 23 suspected ended up charged in the Southern District of Florida with laundering at least $10 million obtained from BEC scams.
The list of suspects also includes two Nigerian nationals living in Dallas, Texas, who tricked a real estate closing attorney into wiring $246,000 to accounts they controlled.
A separate indictment targets three suspects, two of which ended up extradited to the United States from the United Kingdom and Mauritius.
BEC scams, which authorities also call cyber-enabled financial fraud, often target employees with access to company finances and trick them into making wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals.
Among those arrested on federal charges in BEC schemes include:
• Following an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, 23 individuals were charged in the Southern District of Florida with laundering at least $10 million from proceeds of BEC scams, including eight people charged in an indictment unsealed last week in Miami. These eight defendants are alleged to have conspired to launder proceeds from numerous BEC scams, totaling at least approximately $5 million, including approximately $1.4 million from a victim corporation in Seattle, as well as various title companies and a law firm.
• Following an investigation led by the FBI with the assistance of the IRS Criminal Investigation, Gloria Okolie and Paul Aisosa, both Nigerian nationals residing in Dallas, Texas, were charged in an indictment filed on June 6 in the Southern District of Georgia. According to the indictment, they are alleged to have victimized a real estate closing attorney by sending the lawyer a spoofing email posing as the seller and requesting that proceeds of a real estate sale in the amount of $246,000 be wired to Okolie’s account. They are charged with laundering approximately $665,000 in illicit funds. The attorney experienced $130,000 in losses after the bank was notified of the fraud and froze $116,000.
• Adeyemi Odufuye aka “Micky,” “Micky Bricks,” “Yemi,” “GMB,” “Bawz” and “Jefe,” 32, and Stanley Hugochukwu Nwoke, aka Stanley Banks,” “Banks,” “Hugo Banks,” “Banky,” and “Jose Calderon,” 27, were charged in a seven-count indictment in the District of Connecticut in a BEC scheme involving an attempted loss to victims of approximately $2.6 million, including at least $440,000 in actual losses to one victim in Connecticut. A third co-conspirator Olumuyiwa Yahtrip Adejumo, aka “Ade,” “Slimwaco,” “Waco,” “Waco Jamon,” “Hade,” and “Hadey,” 32, of Toledo, Ohio, pleaded guilty on April 20 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Odufuye was extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States and on Jan. 3, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. Nwoke was extradited to the United States from Mauritius on May 25, marking the first extradition in over 15 years from Mauritius. His case is pending.
• Richard Emem Jackson, aka Auwire, 23, of Lagos, Nigeria, was charged in an indictment filed on May 17 in the District of Massachusetts with two counts of unlawful possession of a means of identification as part of a larger fraud scheme. According to the indictment, on two occasions in 2017, Jackson is alleged to have possessed the identifications of two victims with the intent to commit wire fraud conspiracy. In another case being prosecuted in the District of Massachusetts, a 25-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida man was indicted in federal court in Boston on June 6 on one count of money laundering conspiracy. According to the indictment, the individual was part of a conspiracy that engaged in wire fraud. It is alleged that in early 2018, the defendant’s co-conspirators gained access to email accounts belonging to a Massachusetts real estate attorney and sent emails to recipients in Massachusetts that “spoofed” the real estate attorney’s account in an attempt to cause the email recipient to transfer nearly $500,000, which was intended to be used for payment in connection with a real estate transaction, to a shell account belonging to a money mule recruited and controlled by the defendant.