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Press Release

Houstonian sent to prison for nearly $1M international money laundering scheme

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

HOUSTON – A 31-year-old local man has been sentenced following his conviction of conspiracy to commit money laundering, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

Baudelaire Tchouala pleaded guilty Dec. 7, 2023.

U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett has now ordered Tchouala to serve 18 months in federal prison to be immediately followed by two years of supervised release. He must also pay $168,068 in restitution.

“Business email compromise (BEC) scams and the money launders that support them prey on all levels of society from corporations to people trying to buy their first homes,” said Hamdani. “Today our office along with the FBI removed a conduit for that system. Our office will continue to seek out these BEC networks and dismantle them piece by piece.”

“In just a few short months, Tchouala deliberately opened numerous accounts at multiple banks with the express purpose of laundering almost $1 million dollars in fraudulent funds,” said FBI Houston Special Agent in Charge Douglas Williams. “Working with other remorseless criminals, Mr. Tchouala ruined victims’ lives by stealing hard-earned down payments for homes and shattering their trust in our financial system. FBI Houston’s investigators will continue to relentlessly pursue brazen swindlers while also seeking to make fraud victims whole once more.”

From July 2018 to November 2018, Tchouala laundered money into several bank accounts and withdrew the money to send to others. He used a business account to conceal the fraudulent activity.

In BECs similar to this one, conspirators pose as business partners of corporate victims or individuals that owe money for professional services or loans and send fraudulent emails saying that the business’ bank account has changed. They then ask that payments be sent to a new bank account (an account the conspirators control). The victims think they are paying for legitimate expenses, services or invoices, with the real company unaware of the sent emails. The conspirators attempt to withdraw or wire the money to another account before it can be discovered and frozen. 

The victims in this case believed they paid for goods and services from legitimate individuals and companies but were tricked into sending the money to Tchouala’s accounts. On July 23, 2018, a victim wired $64,000 from their bank account to Tchouala’s account based on instructions they received via email. This account was opened May 24, 2018. The victim sent the money, believing it was for the purchase of a house.

On Oct. 29, 2018, another victim directed $198,955 into Tchouala’s account for a down payment on a condominium. The receiving account was just opened Oct. 12, 2018.

In addition, several companies also fell victim to the scheme. One had communicated via email with someone pretending to be from another company. On Oct. 4, 2018, that person sent an email requesting that payment be sent to an updated bank account. Based on that email, the victim company sent approximately $645,711 to Tchouala’s bank account, which was only opened Aug. 21, 2018.

The victims reside in various countries including the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Tchouala withdrew most of the money via cash, card purchases, checks and transfers. Tchouala’s fraudulent financial activity totaled approximately $935,000.

Tchouala was permitted to remain on bond pending surrender to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rodolfo Ramirez and Shirin Hakimzadeh prosecuted the case.

Updated June 20, 2024

Financial Fraud