The Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, and its partners across the globe, via the Operation Eagle Sweep, have arrested 12 Nigerians in connection with the Business Email Compromise, BEC schemes, running into millions of dollars.
The BEC Schemes, according to a statement by the FBI, target employees of businesses that make payments through wire transfers. The suspects, according to the statement swindled over 500 United States victims with losses exceeding $51 million.
The global crackdown, code-named ‘Operation Eagle Sweep’, was carried out over a three-month period starting in September 2021.
According to the statement, 65 other suspects were arrested in the United States, eight in South Africa, two in Canada and one in Cambodia.
Abba Kyari, the suspended Deputy Commissioner of Police in Nigeria, was declared wanted in the United States for alleged involvement in a $1.1 million scam carried out by a notorious Internet scammer, Ramon Abass, aka Hushpuppi.
The FBI statement reads, “Following on the success of Operation Wire Wire and Operation reWired, the FBI conducted another significant, coordinated effort to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes that intercept and steal wire transfers sent by businesses and individuals.
“The U.S. Department of Justice and international law enforcement partners carried out Operation Eagle Sweep over a three-month period and arrested 65 suspects in the United States and overseas, including 12 in Nigeria, eight in South Africa, two in Canada, and one in Cambodia.
“In parallel with Operation Eagle Sweep, Australia, Japan, and Nigeria conducted local operations targeting BEC actors.
“BEC is a sophisticated scam that often targets employees of businesses that make payments through wire transfers.
“These skilled scammers usually gain access to a company’s email accounts or spoof their email addresses to send legitimate sounding and well-timed requests for wire transfers.
“The bank accounts provided for the transfers, however, are controlled by the criminals. The same criminal organizations that carry out BEC also exploit individuals, often real estate purchasers and the elderly.
“These financially devastating schemes harm not only victims but also affect the global economy.
“According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), victims of BEC and a similar scheme called email account compromise reported nearly $2.4 billion in losses in 2021.”
Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran of the FBI’s Cyber Division said, “The FBI works tirelessly with our domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises, to stop the victimization of U.S. citizens and businesses, and to impose real consequences on cybercriminals using our unique authorities and enduring partnerships.
“Operation Eagle Sweep’s success is directly attributed to our global reach and worldwide partnerships. Our message to criminals involved in these BEC schemes will remain clear: We will pursue you no matter where you may be located. The public we serve deserves nothing less."
Among those apprehended during the operation were:
Oluwasegun Baiyewu, 36, of Houston, Texas, and Leo Omorogieva Eghaghe, 39, of Lagos, Nigeria, were arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as part of a larger investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Puerto Rico and Houston.
The charges relate to the victimization of a Puerto Rico-based renewable energy supplier. The investigation revealed that the individuals arrested were involved in an international money laundering conspiracy in which an extensive, organized network of money mules moved at least $4.5 million dollars in fraud funds obtained from BEC and other fraud schemes from the United States to Nigeria.
Ashley Crespo, 27; David Alvarado, 21; Wendy Elizabeth Ramos Lopez, 29; Dayana Zaila Ramos, 32; Alvaro Umanzor, 23; Luis Lopez, 39; Jerome Crawford, 25; and Jamal Moore, 25, all of Houston, Texas, were indicted on charges of laundering almost $900,000 of proceeds from a BEC scam.
This group, and several others, are believed to have laundered almost $4.5 million over a period of two years, with the laundered funds consisting of payments they received from victim businesses all over the world.
Bright Osaghni, 41, and Osatohanmwen Oriakhi, 41, both of Toronto, Canada, were arrested by the Toronto Police Service in connection with a BEC scam and check fraud scheme that impacted hundreds of victims in the United States and Canada, with attempted losses in excess of $16 million.
The operation was carried out in conjunction with the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; South African Police Service; Toronto Police Service; Cambodian National Police; Australian Federal Police; New South Wales Police Force; Victoria Police; Tasmania Police, Queensland Police; Northern Territory Police; South Australia Police; Western Australia Police; the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission; Australian Cyber Security Centre.
Others are the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre; National Police Agency of Japan; the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, and the Microsoft Corporation’s Digital Crimes Unit.