Feds arrest dozens in alleged wire transfer scam

Police arrested 74 suspects involved in an international email scam bust.                  Getty Images

The US has arrested 74 people including almost 30 in Nigeria, as part of an effort to combat email scam artists.

According to the FBI, Katera Baldwin, Adedayo Ojo, Denise McAdams, Amarachukwu Onyeneke, Oghenemairo Adolor, Oluwatomiwa Odebode, Omotayo Arogundade, Monsurat Ashimi, Gbenga Fadipe, Julius Choima and Bolade Duyilemi are all suspects facing money laundering charges after allegedly taking part in a business email scam.

In its statement, the Justice Department notes that these sophisticated scam often target employees "with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments". These often include "real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others" who are either tricked into making wire transfers to legit-looking but criminally-controlled accounts by impersonating a known person or with romance or lottery scams.

It doesn't just happen to small businesses, though.

The operation has resulted in 42 arrests in the United States, 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland. The US also partnered with law enforcement in Nigeria, Poland, Canada, Mauritius, Indonesia and Malaysia.

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"Operation Wire Wire", a coordinated effort by Interpol, national police forces, and USA agencies including the FBI, DoJ, Homeland Security, Treasury Department, Secret Service, and the Postal Inspection Service, was conducted over a six-month period.

"The operation also resulted in the seizure of almost $2.4m, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14m in fraudulent wire transfers", the statement said.

"This operation demonstrates the FBI's commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses", FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement.

The Justice Department charged 23 people in Florida for laundering at least $10 million from email scams, targeting several companies and a law firm, according to court documents. "These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes".

The Justice Department said BEC schemes and similar email scams have cost victims $3.7 billion since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began tracking the incidents.

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