The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Justice this week announced sanctions against six Nigerian nationals for their involvement in business email compromise (BEC) and romance fraud schemes.
The six, namely Richard Uzuh, Micheal Olorunyomi, Alex Ogunshakin, Felix Okpoh, Nnamdi Benson, and Abiola Kayode, engaged in BEC fraud schemes that resulted in American citizens losing over $6 million, the U.S. Treasury says. They impersonated business executives and tricked legitimate businesses into wiring them money, but also stole from others by conducting romance fraud operations.
Using various manipulation tactics, the individuals gained access to usernames, passwords, and bank accounts, in furtherance of the scheme. Some of those who engaged in romance fraud relied on social media and email to boost their social engineering tactics, the U.S. Treasury says.
“As a result of today’s action, all property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within or transiting the United States are blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from dealing with them,” OFAC says.
Between 2015 and 2016, Uzuh and an accomplice engaged in BEC fraud, requesting and receiving funds from victim businesses’ accounts. He would often target over 100 businesses in a single day and his scheme is believed to have caused over $6,300,000 is losses.
From September 2015 to June 2017, Olorunyomi and an accomplice engaged in a romance fraud scheme in which he either obtained funds directly from the victims, or used their bank accounts to funnel fraudulently obtained money. The scheme likely resulted in losses of more than $1 million.
Engaging in both BEC and romance scams, Ogunshakin provided Uzuh and other co-conspirators with bank accounts to receive fraudulent wire transfers, in addition to running his own BEC schemes and assisting Uzuh with the contacting of victim companies.
Okpoh and Benson conducted romance scams and engaged in money laundering (working with Uzuh). Both provided bank accounts used to receive fraudulent wire transfers. While also conducting BEC and romance scams, Kayode too provided U.S. bank accounts to individuals involved in the scheme.
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