In the US, three Nigerian men, Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, 29, James Junior Aliyu, 28, and Henry Onyedikachi Echefu, 31, have been charged with participating in a $6 million business email compromise (BEC) fraud operation.
A statement released by the US Department of Justice, says the suspects who all reside in South Africa, allegedly conspired with some residents in Maryland to gain “unauthorised access to email accounts associated with individuals and businesses”.
“According to the seven-count indictment, from February 2016 until at least July 2017, the defendants conspired with others to perpetrate a BEC scheme. Specifically, the indictment alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators, including co-conspirators residing in Maryland, gained unauthorised access to email accounts associated with individuals and businesses targeted by the conspirators.
The co-conspirators then allegedly sent false wiring instructions to the victims’ email accounts from “spoofed” emails, which are emails with forged sender addresses, to deceive the victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by perpetrators of the scheme, called “drop accounts.”
The indictment also alleges that the defendants conspired to commit money laundering by disbursing the fraudulently obtained funds in the drop accounts to other accounts by initiating account transfers, withdrawing cash, obtaining cashier’s checks, and by writing checks to other individuals and entities, to hide the true ownership and the source of those assets.”the statement read.
The first defendant, Simon-Ebo, was extradited to the US from Canada on Wednesday and is scheduled to make his court debut on Friday, according to the US Department of Justice.
Giving details of the alleged crime, the US said:
“For example, defendant Aliyu is alleged to have made a $350,000 wire transfer from one of the drop accounts in Maryland to an account he controlled in South Africa, knowing that the funds were the proceeds of a crime and that the transaction was designed to conceal the nature, source, and ownership of those funds. Specifically, Simon-Ebo is charged in three wire fraud counts involving $6,343,533.10 in victim funds being wired to accounts controlled by conspirators.”
The defendants are liable to 20 years in federal prison if found guilty.