California man pleads guilty to email compromise scheme that stole millions from Northwest maritime construction firms
Boat builder and engine manufacturing firm targeted by cybercrime
Seattle – A 44-year-old Inglewood, California, man pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to an email compromise scheme that stole more than $3.3 million from a boat-building company, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman. LESLIE REDD III, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. He is scheduled for sentencing before Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez on June 25, 2021.
According to records filed in the case, including the plea agreement, in October 2018, REDD entered a scheme with a co-conspirator in Pennsylvania and others. The scheme began when a malicious link was sent to an email address of an employee at the engine-building company. The link allowed the conspirators to gain access to the company’s email system and review various emails such as invoices. The conspirators then posed as a billing executive at the engine manufacturing company and sent the boat-building company instructions to wire the payment funds to a specific bank account. The conspirators had set up a fake company and the account at a Pennsylvania bank specifically to receive these funds. The false emails indicated the engine-building company’s usual bank account was undergoing an audit and said that the engine-building company therefore needed to use a different bank than it had previously.
On October 29, 2018, the boat builder paid the invoice for $3,316,730 by wiring the funds as directed by the fraudulent emails. The co-conspirator in Pennsylvania quickly forwarded $3,074,500 to bank accounts controlled by REDD and other co-conspirators. Of the ill-gotten funds, REDD kept $857,350 in accounts he controlled. Investigators were able to seize $420,817 from those accounts.
As part of his plea agreement REDD has agreed to forfeit the money in his bank account and make restitution in an amount to be agreed upon at sentencing. Both wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The case is being investigated by the FBI Seattle Office Cyber Task Force.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Friedman.