Two Defendants Charged In “Email Takeover” Scam
SAN JOSE – Bernard Ogie Oretekor, a/k/a “Emmanuel Libs,” and Chantale Petit-Frere were indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday for stealing money from multiple victims through an email takeover scam and “Nigerian Fraud” scheme, announced United States Attorney Melinda Haag and Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, Special Agent in Charge José M. Martinez.
Oretekor, 43, of Ellenwood, Ga., and Petit-Frere, 47, of Brooklyn, N.Y., were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and six substantive counts of wire fraud. Oretekor was also charged with seven counts of money laundering. According to the indictment, the defendants received funds as a result of an email takeover scam, in which the victims were sent so-called “phishing” emails to capture their usernames and account passwords. The phishing emails were designed to trick victims into clicking on a link that delivered them to a fraudulent website created to look like its legitimate counterpart. When a victim logged into the fraudulent website, her username and password for that account were captured, allowing an imposter to access the victim’s account, review its contents, and send and receive e-mails posing as the victim.
According to the indictment, the fraud began when an imposter, who had gained access to the victim’s email accounts through a phishing email, sent an email from the victim’s Yahoo or Google email account, posing as the victim and directing his or her bookkeeper, financial advisor, or bank officer to transfer funds from the victim’s account. The imposter also set up filters in the victim’s account so that any emails from those persons would go directly to the victim’s “trash” folder. The filters ensured that the victim would not likely see any emails pertaining to the fraudulent transactions. The indictment details how the email takeovers resulted in unauthorized wire transfers of over $500,000 from four victims, and an additional $330,000 in attempted transfers that were identified as fraudulent in time to be reversed.
The indictment further alleges that the defendants used a “Nigerian Scam” scheme against a father and son from New Mexico, stealing over $200,000 from them. The “Nigerian Scam” refers generally to a fraud in which the perpetrator, often posing as a current or former high-ranking official from a foreign government, convinces a victim that he will receive a substantial sum of money in return for paying certain “taxes” or “fees” needed to release that money. In this case, according to the indictment, the defendants represented that they were diplomats attached to the South African embassy and that there was a “consignment box” containing $19M that was “tied up in Customs” but that would be released, and the proceeds split, if the victims paid the necessary “fees” and “taxes.
The indictment further alleges that after the victims in New Mexico ran out of money, the defendants converted them into unwitting “money mules” – a term that refers to persons who receive fraudulent funds into their bank account and distribute them as directed by the fraudsters. The indictment also describes how the defendants were eventually introduced to an undercover officer, who posed as the “cousin” of the New Mexico victims and, through this ruse, as able to deal with the defendants directly.
The defendants were arrested on Oct. 7, 2014, pursuant to arrest warrants issued by the Honorable Paul S. Grewal, United States Magistrate Judge. Oretekor was arrested in Ellenwood, Ga., and Petit-Frere in Brooklyn, N.Y. Both remain in custody.
The maximum penalty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1349 and 1343, respectively, is 30 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine. The maximum penalty for money laundering, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1956(a)(1)(B)(i), is 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.
The prosecution is the result of an investigation initiated by the Regional Enforcement Allied Computer Team (REACT) Task Force in San Jose. REACT partnered with IRS Criminal Investigation – Oakland Field Office to expand the scope of the investigation. The United States Secret Service – Atlanta Field Office, as well as U.S. ICE HSI – New York (Brooklyn), also provided valuable support. Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Elise Etter.
Please note that an indictment contains only allegations. As with all defendants, Bernard Ogie Oretekor and Chantale Petit-Frere must be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.