Four Texas Men Arrested and One Fugitive Sought for their Roles in Scheme to Launder Millions from Business Email Compromise Fraud
Two Austin Men Previously Pleaded Guilty to their Roles in the Scheme
A federal grand jury indictment unsealed in Austin charges five Texas residents, all Nigerian nationals, for their roles in laundering millions derived from Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes. Two Austin residents, also Nigerian nationals, pleaded guilty earlier this year for their roles in the scheme.
That announcement was made today by U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio; and, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Houston Division.
Bameyi Kelvin Omale, a 31-year-old resident of Houston; Nnamdi Nwosu, a 32-year-old resident of Houston; Chinonso Agbaji, a 29-year-old resident of Houston; Igho Calaba, a 25-year-old resident of Austin; and Chibuzor Stanley Uba, a 30-year-old resident of San Antonio, were all charged with one count of money laundering conspiracy. Nwosu, Agbaji, and Calaba were also each charged with one count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy. Yesterday and today, federal authorities arrested Omale, Agbaji, Calaba and Uba. Nwosu remains a fugitive in this case.
According to the indictment, the funds were largely derived from BEC schemes perpetrated against U.S. and foreign victims. Over $10 million was allegedly sent by victims to accounts controlled by the defendants, who were able to take in excess of $3 million before law enforcement or financial institutions stopped the fraudulent transfers. In a BEC scheme, scammers target businesses and individuals making wire transfer payments, often targeting employees with access to company finances. The scammers trick the employees into making wire transfer payments to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners—except the money ends up in accounts controlled by the fraudsters. Sometimes the scammers use computer intrusion techniques to alter legitimate payment request emails, changing the recipient bank accounts. Sometimes they send spoofed emails from email addresses similar to trusted partners.
Whatever the BEC method used, the scammers need bank accounts controlled by coconspirators to collect the stolen money. The indictment alleges that the conspirators acquired or controlled dozens of bank accounts opened in the United States, including in Austin, TX, utilizing fraudulent identification documents, including fraudulent foreign passports in fake names. The indictment alleges that once the funds were fraudulently procured and deposited into these bogus accounts, the defendants worked quickly to withdraw or transfer the funds.
The indictment further alleges that some of the conspirators also received funds sent by the victims of romance fraud.
In February 2019, Joseph Odibobhahemen, a 28-year-old resident of Austin, pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy. In December 2018, Nosa Onaghise, a 32-year-old resident of Austin, pleaded guilty to one count of passport fraud in furtherance of the money laundering conspiracy. As alleged in court documents, they were acting as part of the same scheme to launder funds from BEC fraud. Both remain in federal custody awaiting sentencing.
Money laundering conspiracy calls for up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction; passport fraud calls for up to 10 years in federal prison upon conviction.
This indictment resulted from a continuing investigation by HSI and USPIS. The FBI also assisted in the investigation as did the California Highway Patrol. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Southern District of New York also provided assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Galdo and Keith Henneke are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Nnamdi Nwosu is asked to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE encourages the public to report any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.