Two California residents have been jailed for taking part in a multimillion-dollar cybercriminal operation that involved targeted phishing emails, online romance scams, and malware-driven fraud.
George Ugochukwu Egwumba, 47, of Cypress, and Princewell Arinze Duru, 33, of Sacramento, were sentenced to more than 10 years each by separate courts in California for their role in the Nigerian-run enterprise.
Both men were convicted of money laundering and wire fraud in June. They are just two of 80 suspects charged with offenses relating to the scam, which saw victims, including elderly ones, robbed of at least $6 million.
“Members of the conspiracy – many of whom were based in Nigeria – used middlemen to connect with their fellow co-conspirators located in the United States,” said the Department of Justice (DoJ), announcing the sentencing.
The scam entailed “a wide variety of frauds, including business email compromise (BEC) fraud, romance scams, elder fraud, and fraud using malware.”
“The US-based middlemen assisted in receiving and laundering the proceeds of the frauds either through US bank accounts, money transmitting services such as Western Union or MoneyGram, or cryptocurrency.”
Egwumba received bank account information from accomplices to pass to other fraudsters while committing fraud himself “using malware and other cybercrime tools.” Communicating with his fellow crooks via chat messages, he received bank account details later used to receive stolen money.
Duru helped his cybercriminal associates to receive and launder the proceeds of fraud “both by opening fraudulent business bank accounts and using money transmitting services and cryptocurrency wallets.”
So far, the US authorities have secured 19 guilty pleas in connection with the cyber fraud operation, but one of the ringleaders, Chuks Eroha, 42, remains at large and is believed to have fled to Nigeria after the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a warrant for his arrest in 2017.
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