The United State Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) says it has taken action against six Nigerian nationals “for conducting an elaborate scheme to steal over six million dollars from victims across the United States.”
OFAC said the move was a coordinated action with the U.S. Department of Justice and that it also coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which on Tuesday released details regarding its indictment against members of the group.
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The six Nigerians indicted in the fraud scheme are; Richard Uzuh, Micheal Olorunyomi, Alex Ogunshakin, Felix Okpoh, Nnamdi Benson, and Abiola Kayode.
A release on Tuesday by OFAC said the accused persons “targeted U.S. businesses and individuals through deceptive global threats known as business email compromise (BEC) and romance fraud.
“American citizens lost over $6,000,000 due to these individuals’ BEC fraud schemes, in which they impersonated business executives and requested and received wire transfers from legitimate business accounts.
“Money was also stolen from innocent Americans by romance fraud, in which the designees masqueraded as affectionate partners to gain trust from victims.
US Secretary of Treasury, Steven T. Mnuchin, was quoted in the release as saying “Cybercriminals prey on vulnerable Americans and small businesses to deceive and defraud them.”
“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,” he added.
Mode of operation
The release said the six Nigerians and other malicious actors “are exploiting the increased availability of online tools and technology to target at-risk Americans.
“The six individuals designated today manipulated their victims in order to gain access to usernames, passwords, and bank accounts in furtherance of the scheme.
“Several of those who engaged in romance fraud used online tools, including social media and email, to further their social engineering tactics.”
OFAC disclosed that “the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) receives romance fraud victim reports from all ages, education, and income brackets.”
“However, the elderly, women and those who have lost a spouse are often targeted”, it added.
Concerning Uzuh, OFAC said from at least 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.
“Uzuh would often target over 100 businesses in a single day.
“A loss in excess of $6,300,000 can be attributed to the BEC scheme led by Uzuh and an accomplice,” it said.
For Olorunyomi, OFAC said from September 2015 to June 2017, he and an accomplice led a scheme that victimized Americans through the use of romance fraud.
“Olorunyomi 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 victims, or used their bank accounts to funnel fraudulently obtained money.
“Losses exceeding $1,000,000 can be attributed to the romance fraud scheme led by Olorunyomi and his accomplice.”
OFAC said Ogunshakin conducted BEC and romance scams and provided Uzuh and other co-conspirators with bank accounts that were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers.
“Additionally, Ogunshakin assisted Uzuh with contacting victim companies and he conducted his own BEC schemes,” it said.
Like Ogunshakin, Okpoh, Benson, and Kayode also allegedly conducted romance scams and engaged in money laundering, working closely with Uzuh and others involved in the scheme.
“Okpoh provided hundreds of U.S. bank accounts that were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers from victims of BEC and romance fraud.
“Benson 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 U.S. businesses.
“Kayode provided U.S. bank accounts to individuals involved in the scheme, one of which was then used to receive a $69,150 fraudulent wire transfer,” it said.
Daily Trust reports that this development is coming on the heels of the arrest of another Nigerian, Ramoni Abbas (AKA Hushpuppi) in the United Arab Emirates.
Hushpuppi, an Instagram celebrity, was arrested and detained for alleged complicit in advanced fee fraud (AKA 419).