Four Years Behind Bars for Prolific BEC Scammer

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A Nigerian man has been handed a four-year jail sentence for his role in a multinational criminal gang that scammed countless individuals and businesses over a several year period.

Solomon Ekunke Okpe, 31, of Lagos, worked with others on business email compromise (BEC), work-from-home, check-cashing, romance and credit card scams designed to cause losses in excess of $1m.

After being arrested in Malaysia and extradited to Arizona after a two-year legal battle, Okpe pleaded guilty in December 2022 to conspiracy to commit wire, bank and mail fraud.

The BEC schemes typically started with a phishing attack to hijack user inboxes. The gang would then email companies doing business with the victim, requesting payments to new bank accounts under its control.

Read more about BEC busts: Global Police Arrest 65 in Multimillion-Dollar BEC Bust.

The work-from-home scams required the group to pose as online employers on job websites, using fictitious monikers. They would then hire individuals for legitimate-seeming jobs which were actually a front for more fraudulent activity – including the creation of bank and payment accounts, transferring or withdrawing money from accounts, and cashing or depositing counterfeit checks.

Okpe and his co-conspirators also carried out romance scams by creating fake accounts on dating websites, engaging romantically with their victims then tricking them into either transferring their funds overseas and/or receiving money from wire-transfer scams.

Okpe stole tens of thousands of dollars from some victims, according to the Department of Justice (DoJ).

One co-conspirator, Johnson Uke Obogo, was extradited from the UK and sentenced on March 20 to one year and one day in prison for his role in the fraud operation.

The fraud schemes ran from December 2011 to January 2017.

According to the FBI, BEC scams made cyber-criminals over $2.7bn last year, while romance scams were another high earner, resulting in victim losses of nearly $736m.

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