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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Nigerian Man Pleads Guilty In Manhattan Federal Court To Participating In Business Email Compromise Scams

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that ONYEKACHI EMMANUEL OPARA pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty in Manhattan federal court to charges stemming from his participation in fraudulent business email compromise scams that targeted thousands of victims around the world, including the United States.  Collectively, the scams attempted to defraud victims of millions of dollars. 

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “Onyekachi Emmanuel Opara ran a global email scam business that victimized thousands of people out of millions of dollars.  And even though he operated his so-called ‘business’ in a country halfway around the world, our Office’s global reach ensures that he will serve time in the United States for his crimes.”        

According to allegations in an Indictment and other documents filed in federal court, as well as statements made in public court proceedings:

Between 2014 and 2016, OPARA and co-conspirator David Chukwuneke Adindu participated in Business Email Compromise scams (“BEC scams”) targeting thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States.  As part of the BEC scams, fraudulent emails were sent to employees of various companies, purportedly from their supervisors or from third party vendors, directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts.  The fraudulent emails were sent from either email accounts with a domain name that was very similar to the legitimate domain name of the purported sender, or the metadata in the emails had been modified so that the emails appeared as if they were from legitimate email addresses belonging to the purported sender.  After victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, the transferred funds were quickly withdrawn or moved into different bank accounts controlled by members of the scheme.  In total, the BEC scams attempted to defraud millions of dollars from victims.

OPARA and others carried out BEC scams by exchanging information regarding: (1) bank accounts used for receiving funds from victims; (2) email accounts for communicating with victims; (3) scripts for requesting wire transfers from victims; and (4) lists of names and email addresses for contacting and impersonating potential victims.   

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OPARA, 29, of Lagos, Nigeria, was arrested in South Africa on the basis of a provisional arrest warrant in December 2016 and was extradited on January 22, 2018.  He pled guilty today to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  OPARA is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Crotty on July 11, 2018, at 11 a.m.

Adindu, 30, of Lagos, Nigeria, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit identity theft, and was sentenced to 41 months in prison on December 14, 2017.

The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Berman praised the investigative work of the FBI.  Mr. Berman also thanked Oath’s E-Crime Investigations Team, the National Prosecuting Authority for South Africa, the South African Police Service, and noted that the investigation is continuing.

This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Andrew K. Chan and Daniel M. Loss are in charge of the prosecution.

Topic(s): 
Cyber Crime
Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 
18-116
Updated April 11, 2018