US Indicts Six Nigerians Over $6m Email Scam

The United States has sanctioned six Nigerians for operating cyber-scams that stole millions from American victims. 

Indictments were unsealed June 16 against Richard Uzuh, Michael Olorunyomi, Alex Ogunshakin, Felix Okpoh, Nnamdi Benson, and Abiola Kayode. The six men are charged with orchestrating elaborate schemes to defraud Americans through Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks and romance scams. 

American citizens lost over $6,000,000 after falling victim to scams where the men impersonated business executives and requested and received wire transfers from legitimate business accounts or masqueraded as romantic partners. 

After gaining the trust of their victims, the fraudsters manipulated them into handing over their usernames, passwords, and bank account details in order to steal from them. Several of those who engaged in romance fraud used online tools, including social media and email, to further their social engineering tactics.

Between early 2015 and September 2016, Uzuh and an accomplice would often attack over 100 businesses a day with emails purporting to be from a genuine executive at the target company. By requesting and receiving wire transfers of funds from the victimized firm's bank accounts, the pair were able to steal $6.3m.

Olorunyomi and a co-conspirator led a scheme that preyed on Americans searching for love online. The duo created fake profiles on dating websites and posed as romance seekers to defraud victims out of over $1m between September 2015 and June 2017.

As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the six men that are in the possession or control of US citizens or within or transiting the United States are blocked, and US persons generally are prohibited from dealing with them.

“Cybercriminals prey on vulnerable Americans and small businesses to deceive and defraud them,” said Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. 

“As technological advancement increasingly offers malicious actors tools that can be used for online attacks and schemes, the United States will continue to protect and defend at-risk Americans and businesses.”

In July 2019, Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released an advisory noting that it received over 32,000 reports involving almost $9bn in attempted theft from BEC fraud schemes targeting US financial institutions and their customers since its 2016 advisory. 

Recovered funds through FinCEN’s Rapid Response Program, in collaboration with law enforcement, recently surpassed $920m.

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