Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering Charge in Scam Targeting Companies in U.S. and Abroad
Business E-Mail Scheme Generated More Than $900,000
WASHINGTON - Emeka Ndukwu, 46, of Upper Marlboro, Md., pled guilty today to conspiring to launder the proceeds of scams that tricked seven companies in the United States and abroad into wiring more than $900,000 into accounts controlled by various co-conspirators.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Nancy McNamara, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office.
Ndukwu, a dual citizen of the United States and Nigeria, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to one count of money laundering conspiracy. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 20 years in prison and potential financial penalties. Under federal sentencing guidelines, Ndukwu faces a likely range of 46 to 57 months in prison and a fine of up to $200,000. Additionally, as part of the plea, Ndukwu agreed to the forfeiture of a 2014 Mercedes-Benz GL450 and the entry of a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $429,848, representing the share of the criminal proceeds that Ndukwu personally obtained.
The Honorable Timothy J. Kelly scheduled sentencing for July 19, 2018.
According to documents filed at the time of the plea, Ndukwu participated in an ongoing conspiracy from 2013 through 2017 to receive and launder the proceeds of various cyber frauds, primarily arising from business e-mail (“BEC”) compromise schemes. In a typical BEC scheme, a co-conspirator tricks a company into transfering large sums of money into accounts controlled by others participating in the scheme. Using fake e-mails, often containing forged sender addresses, co-conspirators impersonate someone connected to the victim company and deceive an employee of that company into wiring funds. Soon after the wire transfers are completed, the co-conspirators drain the bank accounts and launder the criminal proceeds.
This particular conspiracy targeted at least seven companies in the United States and overseas, including victims in Texas, Illinois, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, India, Japan, and China. The victims were fraudulently induced into sending $916,056 in wire transfers to accounts controlled by Ndukwu and other co-conspirators. The funds were then laundered through transactions conducted in Washington, D.C. and other jurisdictions, including layering through shell company accounts and accounts controlled by co-conspirators.
According to the court documents, Ndukwu used false aliases and forged Nigerian passports to facilitate these schemes, and he used encrypted messaging to communicate with co-conspirators. Ndukwu was indicted in December 2017 and has been in custody since his arrest that month. A co-defendant, Chuka Mbonu, 33, of Nigeria, remains at large.
The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher B. Brown and Michael J. Marando are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist C. Rosalind Pressley. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Natalia Medina participated in investigating the case.