AUSTIN, Texas — A federal grand jury indictment unsealed in Austin charges five Texas residents, all Nigerian nationals, for their roles in laundering millions of dollars derived from Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes.
Two Austin residents, also Nigerian nationals, previously pleaded guilty for their roles in this scheme.
The men charged in the indictment are: 31-year-old Bameyi Kelvin Omale of Houston; 32-year-old Nnamdi Nwosu of Houston; 29-year-old Chinonso Agbaji of Houston; 25-year-old Igho Calaba of Austin; and 30-year-old Chibuzor Stanley Uba of San Antonio. They are all charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy. Nwosu, Agbaji and Calaba were all also charged with one count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Agbaji, Calaba, Omale and Uba were arrested. Nwosu remains a fugitive.
The indictment resulted from a continuing investigation by Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The FBI, California Highway Patrol and the U.S. Attorney's Offices for the Southern District of Texas and Southern District of New York also provided assistance.
According to the indictment, the money was largely derived from BEC schemes perpetrated against U.S. and foreign victims. The scheme began sometime before November 2016. Over $10 million was allegedly sent by victims to accounts controlled by the defendants, who were able to take in excess of $3 million before the fraudulent transfers were stopped by law enforcement of financial institutions.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, in a BEC scheme, scammers target businesses and individuals making wire transfer payments, often targeting employees with access to company finances. The scammers trick the employees into making wire transfer payments to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners, but instead the money ends up in accounts controlled by the scammers. Sometimes the scammers use computer intrusion techniques to alter legitimate payment request emails, changing the recipient bank accounts, while other times they send spoofed emails from email addresses similar to trusted partners. Either way, the scammers need bank accounts controlled by co-conspirators to collect the stolen money.
The indictment said that the conspirators in this case acquired or controlled dozens of bank accounts opened in the U.S., including in Austin, utilizing fraudulent identification documents, including fake passports. The indictment said that once the funds were procured and deposited into these fake accounts, the defendants worked quickly to withdraw or transfer the money.
The indictment alleged that some of the conspirators also received funds sent by the victims of romance fraud.
In February 2019, 28-year-old Joseph Odibobhahemen of Austin pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. In December 2018, 32-year-old Nosa Onaghise of Austin pleaded guilty to one count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy. Court documents alleged they were acting as part of the same scheme to launder funds from BEC fraud. Both remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing.
Money laundering conspiracy calls for up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction, while passport fraud calls for up to 10 years in federal prison upon conviction.
Assistant U.S. attorneys Michael Galdo and Keith Henneke are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
If you have any information about the whereabouts of Nnamdi Nwosu, contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.
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