An Accra-based Nigerian citizen, Babatunde Martins, 64, has been extradited to the United States to stand trial for wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft following an indictment by a federal grand jury.
Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme, including another Nigerian, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, who was sentenced to 78-month in prison, a statement by the US Department of Justice said.
The statement said Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office made the announcement.
A federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee had on August 23, 2017, indicted Martins and others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
The statement said following his extradition, Martins’ initial appearance was made Monday before US Magistrate Judge Charmiane G. Claxton for the Western District of Tennessee.
“The indictment alleges that various Africa-based coconspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016. Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa. Commonly referred to as business-email compromise, or BEC, this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis”, the statement said.
According to the statement, the defendant is also charged with perpetrating romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams and credit card scams.
“The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Africa through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams. The defendant is specifically alleged to have owned and operated a company called Afriocean LTD that he used in furtherance of these crimes. The defendant, along with his coconspirators, is believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe,” the statement added.
It however explained that an indictment was merely an allegation and the defendants were presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Apart from Abegunde, 33, who was sentenced to 78-month in prison, one Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 30, was convicted in March after a seven-day trial in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Several individuals are said to be at large.
The investigation which was led by the FBI, received significant support from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, FBI’s Legal Attaché in Accra, the FBI Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, FBI’s Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and FBI’s International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center.
It also received support from the U.S. Marshals Service, INTERPOL Washington, the INTERPOL Unit of the Ghana Police Service, the Republic of Ghana’s Office of Attorney General, and Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office.