By Adedayo Akinwale
The United States Attorney Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have announced the unsealing of indictments charging six Nigerian for their involvement in Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes.
It said that the schemes included individual victims and victims’ businesses both in Nebraska and other states, adding that BECs are sophisticated cyber crimes involving electronic transfer payments or automated clearinghouse transfers.
The charges against the Nigerians included: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud, punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000; Identity theft and access device fraud, each punishable by up to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.
The Nigerians charged and still at large are: Richard Uzuh; Micheal Olorunyomi; Alex Ogunshakin; Felix Okpoh; Abiola Kayode and Nnamdi Benson.
The US Attorney, Joe Kelly for the District of Nebraska and Special Agent in Charge Kristi K. Johnson of the FBI Omaha field office, said that two related defendants have entered pleas of guilty.
The US explained that an indictment is a formal accusation returned by a grand jury upon establishing probable cause, while adding that the indictment is not evidence of guilt and defendants are entitled to a presumption of innocence.
A statement issued on Wednesday by the US Mission in Abuja noted that one Adewale Aniyeloye was sentenced in the District of Nebraska to 96 months in prison for wire fraud, while Onome Ijomone received a 60-month sentence for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
The US noted that the BEC scheme set forth in the unsealed indictments of the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) had taken the extraordinary step of imposing financial sanctions on each of the six Nigerians.
The US stated: “As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property held by these individuals and subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and other persons are blocked from engaging in financial transactions with these fugitives.”
The statement quoted Special Agent in Charge Johnson to have said: “The FBI is working every day to disrupt and dismantle the criminal enterprises that target our businesses and our citizens. Today’s charges are another successful example of our commitment to working together with our foreign colleagues abroad and we’re sending a strong message to the criminals who perpetrate these BEC schemes. We will continue coming after you, no matter where you are. And to the public, we will keep doing everything we can to protect you.”
The Department of Justice and the FBI commended the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Federal Ministry of Justice, and National Central Bureau, Abuja – INTERPOL (Nigeria Police Force), for their past and continued assistance in pursuing those that engage in Business Email Compromise and other fraud schemes.
Richard Uzuh, m, born April 29, 1986; Passport no, A05284868
According to the US Department of Treasury Office, Uzoh was designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, for having engaged in fraudulent cyber-enabled activities.
From early 2015 to September 2016, Uzuh and an accomplice sent emails to victims appearing as though they were coming from a company’s true business executive and would request and receive wire transfers of funds from the businesses’ accounts. He targeted over 100 businesses in a single day and a loss in excess of $6,300,000 can be attributed to a scheme he led.
Michael Olorunyomi, m, born May 12, 1983; Passport no, A50143448
Olorunyomi was designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, for having engaged in scandalous cyber-enabled activities.
From September 2015 to June 2017, Olorunyomi and an accomplice led a scheme that victimised Americans through the use of romance fraud. He and his co-conspirators created fictitious profiles on dating websites and posed as individuals looking for love. He developed online relationships with victims to either obtain funds directly from them or used their bank accounts to funnel fraudulently obtained money. Losses exceeding $1,000,000 can be attributed to the romance fraud scheme he led.
Alex Ogunshakin, m, born February 23, 1983; Passport no, A05285583.
Ogunshakin was designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, for having provided financial, material, and technological support for Uzuh.
Ogunshakin conducted business email compromise and romance scams and provided Uzuh and other co-conspirators with bank accounts that were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers.
Felix Okpoh, m, born March 9, 1989; Passport no, A06415967
Okpoh was also designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, for having provided technological support to Uzuh by availing hundreds of US bank accounts that were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers from victims of BEC and romance fraud.
Nnamdi Benson, m, born March 21, 1987; Passport no, A06417829
Benson was also designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended, for having provided support to Uzuh, working closely with Uzuh in romance scams and money laundering. He communicated with multiple romance fraud victims to obtain their bank account details, and provided the account information to Uzuh to receive fraudulent wire transfers from US businesses.
Abiola Kayode, m, born November 1987; Passport no, A05637743
Lastly, Kayode was designated pursuant to E.O. 13694, as amended for working closely with Uzuh and others involved in the scheme. He provided US bank accounts to individuals involved in the scheme, one of which was then used to receive a $69,150 fraudulent wire transfer