United States’ Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated six Nigerians for alleged involvement in online scams worth over $6 million (N2.1 billion).
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Tuesday listed the suspects who were designated pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13694, as amended by E.O. 13757, as Richard Uzuh, Michael Olorunyomi, Alex Ogunshakin, Felix Okpoh, Nnamdi Benson and Abiola Kayode.
In a statement on its website, the U.S. Department said the six persons “manipulated their victims to gain access to their sensitive information and financial resources”.
It explained that they targeted American businesses and individuals using “business email compromise and romance fraud” while impersonating American business executives, requesting, and receiving wire transfers from their accounts.
It added that the suspects targeted women, especially those who just lost a spouse, deceiving them with affection through calls and constant chats until they gained their trust and swindled their unsuspecting victims.
While also announcing the unsealing of indictments on Tuesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Nebraska, said all the six persons had been charged.
The accused are all at large and believed to currently reside in Nigeria.
The Treasury Department alleged that Uzuh’s scams started from around early 2015. He allegedly obtained a list of contact information for employees at U.S. companies, and, together with co-conspirators, sent spoofed emails to the companies, impersonating executives.
The 34-year-old would then request the targeted companies send urgent wire transfers for purportedly legitimate expenses, which were then often sent to accounts held by other parties.
The department said Ogunsakin, 37, allegedly provided Uzuh and other co-conspirators with bank accounts that were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers; helped Uzuh to contact victims’ companies; and also ran his own BEC schemes.
The 31-year-old Okpoh, the U.S. said, similarly worked closely with Uzuh, engaging in money laundering, and providing hundreds of U.S. bank accounts which were used to receive fraudulent wire transfers from victims of BEC and romance fraud.
“Benson, 33, did the same, allegedly communicating with multiple romance fraud victims to obtain their bank account details, and providing the account information to Uzuh to receive fraudulent wire transfers from U.S. businesses,” the department added.
The U.S. said Kayode also allegedly conducted BEC and romance scams and worked closely with Uzuh and others to run fraudulent schemes. One of the accounts the 32-year-old provided to individuals in the scheme was used to receive a $69,150 fraudulent wire transfer.
According to the U.S. Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, the American government will continue to protect and defend at-risk Americans and businesses from malicious actors.
The case was investigated by the FBI Omaha Field Office Cyber Task Force, and assisted by the efforts of law enforcement counterparts from Nigeria.