United States’ Federal authorities on Tuesday announced the arrest of 167 Nigerians in a wide scale effort to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes tagged used by fraudsters to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens through an investigation tagged ‘Operation reWired conducted around the world.
While announcing the arrests late Tuesday, the FBI, in a statement said, “Operation reWired, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of State, was conducted over a four-month period, resulting in 281 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana.
Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom (UK). The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million. BEC, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” is a sophisticated scam often targeting employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.
The same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC also exploit individual victims, often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others, by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals. This is often accomplished by impersonating a key employee or business partner after obtaining access to that person’s email account or sometimes done through romance and lottery scams.
Following an investigation led by the FBI’s Chicago Division, Brittney Stokes, 27, of Country Club Hills, Illinois, and Kenneth Ninalowo, 40, of Chicago, Illinois, were charged in the Northern District of Illinois with laundering over $1.5 million from proceeds of BEC scams. According to the indictment, a community college and an energy company were defrauded into sending approximately $5 million to fraudulent bank accounts controlled by the scammers. Banks were able to freeze approximately $3.6 million of the $5 million defrauded in the two schemes. Law enforcement officials seized a 2019 Range Rover Velar S from Stokes and approximately $175,909 from Stokes and Ninalowo.
– As a result of a joint investigation by the FBI, HSI, and DSS, Opeyemi Adeoso, 44, of Dallas, Texas, and Benjamin Ifebajo, 45, of Richardson, Texas, were arrested and charged in the Northern District of Texas with bank fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. Adeoso and Ifebajo are alleged to have received and laundered at least $3.4 million. In furtherance of their scheme, they are alleged to have assumed 12 fictitious identities and defrauded 37 victims from across the United States.