Global Cops Bust 281 Alleged BEC Scammers

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An international law enforcement operation has led to the arrest of 281 individuals on charges linked to Business Email Compromise (BEC) and the seizure of nearly $3.7m.

The “Operation reWired” initiative was coordinated by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), Department of Homeland Security, US Treasury, the Postal Inspection Service and the Department of State along with law enforcers in nine other countries.

The vast majority of arrests came in Nigeria (167), although 74 individuals were placed behind bars in the US, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia and the UK.

Prosecutors claimed to have made arrests in connection with both corporate BEC scams and attempts to part individuals with their cash, especially the elderly.

Operation reWired began in May this year with arrests, money mule warning letters and asset seizures and repatriations.

Among the cases listed by the DoJ were those of Kenneth Ninalowo, 40, of Chicago, Illinois who is alleged to have laundered over $1.5m of proceeds from BEC scams, including a community college and an energy company which were tricked into sending $5m to fraudulent bank accounts.

Also arrested were Nigerian nationals, Emmanuel Igomu, 35, of Atlanta, Georgia, and Jude Balogun, 29, of San Francisco, who are alleged to have received funds connected to a $3.5m BEC scam that defrauded a Georgia-based health care provider.

In addition, Cyril Ashu, 34, of Austell, Georgia; Ifeanyi Eke, 32, of Sandy Springs, Georgia; Joshua Ikejimba, 24, of Houston, Texas and Chinedu Ironuah, 32, of Houston, Texas were charged in connection with a $10m BEC operation that impacted hundreds of victims in the US.

It’s unclear whether any of the arrests made impacted the notorious London Blue gang, whose prodigious exploits have been tracked and revealed by security firm Agari over the past year.

BEC is now a big money maker. Symantec reckons over 400 companies are being targeted each day, whilst the FBI estimates that $1.3bn was lost to the scams last year.

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