Bronx Man Sentenced To More Than 4 Years In Prison For Multimillion-Dollar Fraud Scheme Involving Business Email Compromises And Romance Scams Targeting The Elderly
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that MUFTAU ADAMU, a/k/a “Muftau Adams,” a/k/a “Muftau Iddrissu,” was sentenced today to 51 months in prison in connection with a fraud scheme based in the Republic of Ghana (“Ghana”) involving the theft of over $10 million through business email compromises and romance scams that targeted elderly victims from at least 2014 through 2018. ADAMU pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on February 12, 2019, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin Nathaniel Fox. U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote imposed today’s sentence.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Muftau Adamu and his co-defendants conspired with others in Ghana to steal millions of dollars from businesses and vulnerable individuals across the United States through business email compromises and romance scams. Today’s sentencing sends a message that those who facilitate frauds will face significant time in jail. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute such fraud schemes, no matter where they originate.”
According to allegations in the Complaints and the Indictment filed in the case:
Between 2014 and 2018, ADAMU, TOUREY AHMED RUFAI, a/k/a “Joe Thompson,” a/k/a “Joe Terry,” a/k/a “Rufai A Tourey,” a/k/a “Ahmed Rufai Tourey,” and PRINCE NANA AGGREY were members of a criminal enterprise (the “Enterprise”) based in Ghana that committed a series of business email compromises and romance scams against individuals and businesses located across the United States, including in the Southern District of New York.
The objective of the Enterprise’s business email compromise fraud scheme was to deceive businesses into wiring funds into accounts controlled by the Enterprise. First, members of the Enterprise created email accounts with slight variations of email accounts used by employees of a victim company or third parties engaged in business with a company to “spoof” or impersonate those employees or third parties. These fake email accounts were specifically designed to trick other employees of the company with access to the company’s finances into thinking the fake email accounts were authentic. The fake email accounts were used to send instructions to wire money to certain bank accounts and also included fake authorization letters for the wire transfers that contained forged signatures of company employees. By using this method of deception, the Enterprise sought to trick the victims into transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars to bank accounts the victims believed were under the control of legitimate recipients of the funds as part of normal business operations, when, in fact, the bank accounts were under the control of members of the Enterprise, including ADAMU, RUFAI, and AGGREY.
The Enterprise conducted the romance scams by using electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, or online dating websites that deluded the victims, many of whom were vulnerable men and women over the age of 60 who lived alone, into believing the victim was in a romantic relationship with a fake identity assumed by members of the Enterprise. Once members of the Enterprise had gained the trust of the victims using the fake identity, they used false pretenses to cause the victims to wire money to bank accounts the victims believed were controlled by their romantic interests, when, in fact, the bank accounts were controlled by members of the Enterprise. At times, the members of the Enterprise also used false pretenses to cause the victims to receive funds into the victims’ bank accounts, which, unbeknownst to the victims, were fraud proceeds, and to transfer those funds to accounts under the control of members of the Enterprise. The members of the Enterprise, posing as the romantic interest of the victims, also introduced the victims to other individuals purporting to be, for example, consultants or lawyers, who then used false pretenses to cause the victims to wire money to bank accounts controlled by members of the Enterprise.
ADAMU, RUFAI, AGGREY, and their co-conspirators received or otherwise directed the receipt of more than $10 million in fraud proceeds from victims of the Enterprise in bank accounts that they controlled in the Bronx, New York. Some of these bank accounts were opened using fake names, stolen identities, or shell companies in order to avoid detection and hide the true identities of the members of the Enterprise controlling those accounts. Once the defendants received the fraud proceeds in bank accounts under their control, the defendants withdrew, transported, and laundered those fraud proceeds to other members of the Enterprise, including those located in Ghana.
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In addition to the prison term, ADAMU, 30, of the Bronx, New York, was sentenced to three years of supervised release and ordered to forfeit $114,281.51 and pay restitution of $443,000 to victims.
RUFAI, 33, of the Bronx, New York, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on January 9, 2019, and was sentenced by Judge Cote on April 12, 2019, to 48 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $109,868.61 and pay restitution of $320,449.97 to victims.
AGGREY, 43, of the Bronx, New York, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on January 28, 2019, and was sentenced by Judge Cote on May 10, 2019, to 30 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to forfeit $71,595.60 and pay restitution of $431,884.00 to victims.
U.S. Attorney Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation. Mr. Berman also thanked U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office, and the FBI Legal Attaché in Accra, Ghana, for their helpful assistance with the investigation.
The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Sagar K. Ravi and Andrew D. Beaty are in charge of the prosecution.