The US Department of Justice has indicted dozens of individuals for their involvement in a massive business email scam and money laundering operation.
Over a dozen individuals were arrested during raids carried out in the Los Angeles area but a total of 80 defendants are allegedly involved in the scheme.
The 145-page indictment which was recently unsealed, revealed that 80 people have been named and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and bank fraud in addition to aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
While arrests were made in the US, most of the people alleged to be involved in the scheme are based in Nigeria. At this time, it is still unclear as to whether the Nigerian nationals will be extradited to the US but the two countries do have a treaty that would make extradition possible.
Combating online fraud
US authorities are taking a hard stance on business email scams and other fraudulent activities online according to US Attorney Nicola Hanna who explained how this indictment is intended to send a message to fraudsters, saying:
“Today, we have taken a major step to disrupt criminal networks that use [business email scam] schemes, romance scams and other frauds to fleece victims. This indictment sends a message that we will identify perpetrators — no matter where they reside — and we will cut off the flow of ill-gotten gains.”
Prosecutors said that Valentine Iro and Chukwudi Christogunus Igbokwe have been accused of running the operation. The indicted individuals allegedly carried out acts of fraud against over a dozen victims which generated millions of dollars worth of stolen funds over the course of several months.
The operation’s leaders acted as brokers of fraudulent bank accounts according to the prosecutors who allege that they fielded requests for bank account information and then laundered the money obtained from their victims. Several of the fraudsters’ bank accounts also contained over $40m in stolen funds.
The case will still need to go to trial before anything is decided but the indictment is a step in the right direction when it comes to showing cybercriminals that they can be held responsible for their crimes online no matter where they reside.