Two Nigerians charged for $6.2 million wire fraud in attempted scam in US

Two Nigerians have been charged by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for  $6.2million wire fraud after an attempt to extort $25.2million from almost 2 dozen public and private entities around the United States.

In a statement by the Department of Justice (DoJ), the indictment unsealed in federal court charged Efeturi Ariawhorai aka Efeturi Simeon, 35, a dual citizen of Nigeria and Vanuatu who recently resided in the United Arab Emirates, and Ikenna Nwajiaku, 41, a Nigerian national believed to be residing in or near Lagos, Nigeria, on an 11-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.

According to the Assistant United States Attorney Quinn Harrington, Chief of the Cyber and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon: “Federal law enforcement is determined to use every tool and capability it has to pursue cyber criminals and retrieve money mistakenly sent to unknown bank accounts. We applaud the local victim in this case for quickly reporting the crime and giving authorities the best possible chance at retrieving their money. Unfortunately, many of these situations go a different and very costly way. When in doubt, we encourage anyone who thinks they are the victim of a cyber crime to report immediately to the FBI. Time is of the essence.’’

On his part, special Agent in Charge Keiran L. Ramsey said, “The level of greed it takes to steal from schools and hospitals, especially during the height of a global pandemic, is beyond disturbing. Through quick action from many of these victims the FBI, with our Recovery Asset Team, was able to freeze funds and return a majority of the stolen money. In fact, we were able to recover the total loss of nearly $3 million for a victim in Oregon and keep that money out of the hands of criminals. If you are the victim of a cyber intrusion or fraud scheme please reach out to the FBI as soon as possible, we are here to help.”

According to the Department of Justice in its indictment beginning in June 2019 and proceeding until January 2021, Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku co-operated with one another to defraud various public and private entities located throughout the U.S., including numerous school districts, universities, colleges, and hospitals.

As part of their scheme, Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku would contact organizations by email; impersonate employees of the targeted organization or professionals from other entities doing business with the target organization, such as construction companies; and convince the organizations to send payments to bank accounts controlled by third parties acting on Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku’s behalf.

To hide their deceitful activity, Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku used false names and various identity-concealing technologies including virtual private networks, compromised servers, and leased infrastructure.

Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku would also register email addresses and internet domain names with slight variations on the names of real companies to trick victim organizations.

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