Israeli Hacker-For-Hire Sentenced To 80 Months In Prison For Involvement In Massive Spearphishing Campaign
Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that CHIBUNDU JOSEPH ANUEBUNWA, a citizen of Nigeria who was previously extradited from the United Kingdom, pled guilty today before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with his participation in fraudulent business email compromise scams that targeted thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States. In connection with the same conspiracy as ANUEBUNWA, co-defendant DAVID CHUKWUNEKE ADINDU was previously sentenced to 41 months in prison, and co-defendant ONYEKACHI EMMANUEL OPARA was previously extradited from South Africa and sentenced to 60 months in prison.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As he has now admitted, Chibundu Joseph Anuebunwa participated in a conspiracy to trick thousands of business employees located all around the world into wiring millions of dollars to overseas bank accounts by sending bogus emails that appeared to be legitimate. This case should serve as a reminder to cyber criminals located around the globe that we will track them down and hold them responsible.”
According to publicly filed court documents and statements made at public court proceedings:
Between 2014 and 2016, ANUEBUNWA, OPARA, and 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, emails were sent to employees of various companies directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts. The emails purported to be from supervisors at those companies or third-party vendors that did business with those companies. The emails, however, were not legitimate. Rather, they were either from email accounts with a domain name that was very similar to a legitimate domain name, or the metadata in the emails had been modified so that the emails appeared as if they were from legitimate email addresses. After victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, the transferred funds were quickly withdrawn or moved into different bank accounts. In total, the BEC scams attempted to defraud the victims of millions of dollars.
ANUEBUNWA and others carried out BEC scams by exchanging information regarding: (i) bank accounts used for receiving funds from victims; (ii) email accounts used for communicating with victims; (iii) scripts for requesting wire transfers from victims; and (iv) lists of names and email addresses for contacting and impersonating potential victims.
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ANUEBUNWA, 40, a citizen of Nigeria, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. ANUEBUNWA is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Crotty on October 2, 2023, at 3:30 p.m.
The maximum potential sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Mr. Williams praised the investigative work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Mr. Williams also thanked United Kingdom authorities and the Yahoo E-Crime Investigations Team for their assistance in the investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from the United Kingdom.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew K. Chan is in charge of the prosecution.