The U.S. government has announced the extradition of a Nigerian, Chibundu Anuebunwa, a suspect accused of a multi-million dollar business email compromise scam,
Mr Anuebunwa was extradited from the United Kingdom to face criminal charges in the United States before U.S. Magistrate Katharine Parker, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York on Friday.
According to the details of the case already assigned to a U.S. District Judge, Paul Gritty, Mr Anuebunwa would be tried alongside two other Nigerians, David Adindu who was already sentenced to 41 months in jail and co-defendant, Onyekachi Opara, who was previously extradited from South Africa and sentenced to 60 months in prison.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Mr Anuebunwa’s extradition would serve a message to anyone who believes they can swindle people in the United States from halfway around the world.
He said the U.S. government would continue to work with partners in finding culprits no “matter how long it takes”
“As alleged in the indictment, Chibundu Joseph Anuebunwa tried to steal money from thousands of businesses around the world by impersonating corporate executives and sending phony emails to company employees,” Mr Williams said.
“Today’s (Friday) extradition should serve as a warning to those who think they can defraud victims in the United States from halfway around the world: the United States and its international partners will find you and hold you accountable no matter how long it takes.”
In the indictment unsealed before the Manhattan federal court, the U.S. government accused the trio of Messrs Anuebunwa, Adindu and Opara of committing the crime between 2014 and 2016; by allegedly participating in Business Email Compromise Scams (“BEC scams”) that targeted thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States.
“As part of the BEC scams, emails were sent to employees of various companies directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts. The emails purported to be from supervisors at those companies or third-party vendors that did business with those companies.
“The emails, however, were not legitimate. Rather, they were either from email accounts with a domain name that was very similar to a legitimate domain name, or the metadata in the emails had been modified so that the emails appeared as if they were from legitimate email addresses. After victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, the transferred funds were quickly withdrawn or moved into different bank accounts. In total, the BEC scams attempted to defraud millions of dollars from victims.
“ANUEBUNWA and others carried out BEC scams by exchanging information regarding: (1) bank accounts used for receiving funds from victims; (2) email accounts used for communicating with victims; (3) scripts for requesting wire transfers from victims; and (4) lists of names and email addresses for contacting and impersonating potential victims,” the indictment states.
Accused to face 40 years in prison
According to the statement, if found guilty of the charge, Mr Anuebunwa, 39, is faced with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and could be convicted and sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.
“The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.”
In his remarks, Mr Williams complimented the investigative work of the Crown Prosecution Service of the United Kingdom, the FBI, and the Yahoo E-Crime Investigations Team for their contributions to ensuring the defendant’s extradition was completed quickly.
He said that the Office of International Affairs of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division was also instrumental in gaining the defendant’s extradition from the United Kingdom.
He added that the Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit of the Office would be in charge of this case. The prosecution is led by Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew Chan and Daniel Loss.
According to the U.S. government, the charges in the indictment are only accusations, and the defendants are deemed innocent until proven guilty.
U.S. agencies, including the FBI, have been working with their counterparts across the world to check the menace of internet fraud, popularly called Yahoo-Yahoo in Nigeria. Nigeria’s EFCC has in the past announced several arrests and convictions of suspects based on the partnership with the U.S. agencies.