U.S, Attorney Brady Announces the Arrest in Nigeria of an Individual who Conspired with 4 Others Charged in a Business E-Mail Compromise Scheme
Arrest is part of a coordinated International Enforcement Operation targeting hundreds of individuals in BEC schemes
PITTSBURGH, PA – United States Attorney Scott W. Brady announced today the arrest of Taiwo Musiliudeen Idris by law enforcement authorities in Nigeria. Idris was charged today by criminal complaint in the Western District of Pennsylvania with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering as part of a Business Email Compromise (BEC) scheme. The arrest was made public following an announcement by federal authorities of a significant coordinated effort to disrupt BEC schemes designed to intercept and highjack wire transfers from businesses and individuals, including many senior citizens.
According to U.S. Attorney Brady, Idris’ arrest was part of Operation Wire Wire, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the U.S. Postal Service, to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes. The operation was conducted over a six-month period, culminating in over two weeks of intensified law enforcement activity resulting in 74 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 29 arrests in Nigeria and three arrests in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland, respectively.
BEC, also known as "cyber-enabled fraud," targets businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments, as well as individuals, including the elderly and purchasers of real estate. The schemes typically involve impersonating a key employee or other party to a business transaction after obtaining unauthorized access to that person’s email account. Fraudulent emails sent to the victim dupe the victim into wiring money to bank accounts controlled by the criminals instead of to a legitimate bank account belonging to a party to the transaction.
"Deception is at the heart of every business e-mail compromise or CEO impersonation scheme. Attackers gain access to a corporate e-mail account and then spoof the owner’s identity to defraud the company or its employees, customer or partners of money," said U.S. Attorney Brady. "We are committed to identifying and prosecuting anyone who uses the internet to financially exploit western Pennsylvania businesses and citizens."
"These types of schemes are constantly evolving as criminals become more sophisticated in targeting their victims,’ said Acting Special Agent in Charge Chad Yarbrough. "The best way to avoid being taken advantage of is to verify the authenticity of requests before they are carried out."
According to the criminal complaint affidavit, Taiwo Musiliudeen Idris conspired with Ismail Shitu, Nathanael Nyamekye, Adnan Ibrahim, and Akintayo Bolorunduro to launder over $411,000 in real estate settlement proceeds that were fraudulently obtained from a BEC. The BEC targeted the sellers of residential property in Maryland, along with their real estate company, and the settlement company.
According to the complaint affidavit, the settlement company received fraudulent emails and faxes that caused the settlement company to wire the sale proceeds to a bank account belonging to Ismail Shitu in the Western District of Pennsylvania, instead of to the bank account of the victim sellers. Specifically, the complaint affidavit states that on April 29, 2016, Ismail Shitu sent an instant message to Akintayo Bolorunduro containing the details of Shitu’s bank account. Within minutes, Bolorunduro sent Shitu’s bank account information to Taiwo Musiliudeen Idris in an instant message. Within twenty minutes of Idris’ receipt of Shitu’s bank account information, the settlement company received a fraudulent fax purporting to be from the sellers which requested the settlement proceeds to be wired to a bank account which, unbeknownst to them, belonged to Shitu.
The complaint affidavit further describes how the $411,000 was then withdrawn through Shitu’s purchase of eight official bank checks payable to various individuals and/or entities in varying amounts. Photos of several of the official bank checks were sent in instant messages from Shitu to Bolorunduro. Bolorunduro then forwarded those photos to Idris. Shitu, Nyamekye and Ibrahim then laundered the remaining funds.
Shitu, Ibrahim, and Bolorunduro pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering. Bolorunduro was sentenced on May 10, 2018, by Judge Arthur J. Schwab to 63 months’ imprisonment. Shitu and Ibrahim are scheduled for sentencing on October 15, 2018. Nyamekye is scheduled for trial in September 2018.
Assistant United States Attorneys Charles A. Eberle, Adam N. Hallowell and James R. Wilson are prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.
United States Attorney Brady commended the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the investigation leading to the arrest of Idris.