Five Nigerian nationals charged with stealing over $10 mil
SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Four Nigerian men living in Texas have been arrested — and a fifth is still wanted — for laundering millions of dollars through business email compromise schemes.
Federal prosecutors say 31-year-old Bameyi Omale of Houston, 29-year-old Chinonso Agbaji of Houston, 25-year-old Igho Calaba of Austin and 30-year-old Chibuzor Uba of San Antonio were arrested Wednesday and Thursday. Investigators are still looking for 32-year-old Nnamdi Nwosu of Houston.
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday stated these five men were able to get over $10 million sent to accounts controlled by them from U.S. and foreign victims.
They were able to receive more than $3 million of that before either law enforcement or financial institutions stopped the fraudulent transfers.
Federal prosecutors say in schemes like these, scammers target businesses and people making wire transfer payments. They typically target employees who have access to company finances.
The crooks trick the employees to make wire transfer payments to bank accounts thought to belong to those they trust. Instead, that money ends up in accounts connected to the fraudsters.
Prosecutors say scammers will sometimes use computer intrusion techniques to alter legitimate payment request emails. Other times they will use spoofed emails.
In the case of these five Nigerians, the indictment alleges they acquired or controlled dozens of bank accounts opened in the United States, some were opened in Austin. They did this using fake identification documents that included fake passports using fake names.
The indictment says once the funds ended up in these accounts, they would work quickly to withdraw the money or transfer it.
In addition to the business email compromise schemes, prosecutors say they also got money through romance fraud.
Along with this quintet of alleged criminals, two other men have already been arrested and appeared in court for their roles in the scheme. In February 2019, 28-year-old Joseph Odibodhahemen of Austin pleaded guilty to a count of money laundering conspiracy. In December 2018, 32-year-old Nosa Onaghise of Austin pleaded guilty to a count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy.
Both are awaiting sentencing.
The five men have been charged with a count of money laundering conspiracy while Nwosu, Agbaji and Calaba were additionally charged with a count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy.
If convicted, money laundering conspiracy calls for up to 20 years in federal prison. Passport fraud could bring a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Anyone who knows where Nnamadi Nwosu is is being encouraged to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement by calling 866-DHS-2-ICE.