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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against Multimillion-Dollar Business Email Compromise Syndicate

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of New York

Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment against four defendants charged with conducting a wide-ranging business email compromise fraud scheme.

U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said:  “As alleged, these four men and others engaged in a profitable charade, posing as legitimate business counterparties to their victims, whom they deceived into sending them millions of dollars.  Now, thanks to the FBI, the defendants are no longer in a position to defraud anyone.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said:  “The subjects in this alleged scheme made it look so realistic that they were able to maintain it for several years, stealing millions of dollars from the victims.  This type of insidious fraud and cybercrime can do major harm to our financial system and the agency victims.  Our job each day in the New York FBI is to mitigate the damage and assist agencies and businesses in thwarting the threat these criminals pose.”

As alleged in the Indictment unsealed yesterday in Manhattan federal court[1]:

During the relevant time period, CYRIL ASHU, a/k/a “Akem Maleke,” a/k/a “Zabi Malik,” a/k/a “Bill Zambia Morgan,” a/k/a “Anibal Vasquez Roblero,” a/k/a “Baker Lee Walter,” IFEANYI EKE, a/k/a “Luthur Mulbah Doley,” JOSHUA IKEJIMBA, a/k/a “Johnson Ifeanyi Gbono,” a/k/a “Alfred Henshaw,” a/k/a “Peterson Kamara Lawson,” a/k/a “Ganiru Paul Thompson,” and CHINEDU IRONUAH, a/k/a “John Akuba Annan,” a/k/a “Kenneth Kwame Emerson,” a/k/a “Andrew Kamsi Mong,” a/k/a “Emmanuel Mong,” a/k/a “George Wallace,” a/k/a “George Weah,” a/k/a “Frederick Werner,” the defendants, and others known and unknown, engaged in a fraudulent business email compromise (“BEC”) scheme designed to deceive various victims, including an intergovernmental organization headquartered in New York City, into diverting commercial payments from their intended beneficiaries to bank accounts controlled by the defendants and their co-conspirators.

The defendants executed this fraudulent scheme by, among other things, obtaining fraudulent identification documents in false names, registering and incorporating shell companies, and opening fake bank accounts at various banks throughout the United States.  Victims were successfully tricked into wiring funds in accordance with fraudulent wiring instructions sent from fake email accounts, which were designed to resemble email accounts for individuals and companies with whom those victims had business relationships.  The defendants defrauded numerous victims of millions of dollars during the period from 2016 through July 2018.

CYRIL ASHU and IFEANYI EKE were arrested yesterday morning in Atlanta, Georgia and presented in the Northern District of Georgia.  JOSHUA IKEJIMBA was arrested yesterday afternoon in Houston, Texas, and will be presented the Southern District of Texas.  One defendant, CHINEDU IRONUAH, remains at large.

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CYRIL ASHU, 34, of Georgia, IFEANYI EKE, 32, of Georgia, JOSHUA IKEJIMBA, 24, of Texas, and CHINEDU IRONUAH, 32, of Texas, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1349, and one count of wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1343.  The charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.  CYRIL ASHU is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years in prison.   

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

Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI, as well as the assistance of prosecutors in the Northern District of Georgia, the Southern District of Texas, and the Western District of Texas. 

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Olga Zverovich and Jarrod L. Schaeffer are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. 


[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Updated May 9, 2019

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 19-144