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$5.3m fraud: US hunts scammers, traces funds to Hong Kong, Nigeria, others

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The US government has filed a civil forfeiture action to recover $5.3 million linked to a business email compromise (BEC) scheme that defrauded a Massachusetts workers union.

In January 2023, a spoofed email led the union to transfer $6.4 million to a fraudulent account.

The funds were then routed through various international banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

US authorities have seized money from seven domestic accounts connected to the scheme.

These were stated in a Wednesday press release obtained from the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusets website on Thursday.

“BEC fraud schemes present a serious threat to businesses and individuals nationwide, causing significant financial and emotional harm to victims by exploiting trusted communication channels they rely upon every day.

“Today’s civil forfeiture action demonstrates that when victims report such misconduct to the authorities there may be steps we can take to recover stolen funds.

“We hope today’s action helps restore some level of stability and justice for those impacted by fraud,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

Issued in Boston, the statement also admonished that “members of the public who believe they are victims of a cybercrime – including cryptocurrency scams, romance scams, investment scams and business email compromise (BEC) fraud scams – should contact USAMA.CyberTip@usdoj.gov.”

According to the press release, the fraudulently obtained funds were then transferred through a series of intermediary bank accounts, with some funds transferred, or attempted to be transferred, to a cryptocurrency exchange or various bank accounts located in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Nigeria.

“The United States filed a civil forfeiture action today to recover approximately $5,315,746 alleged to be proceeds of a business email compromise (BEC) scheme targeting a Massachusetts workers union, as well as property involved in money laundering.

“The complaint alleges that in January 2023, a workers union located in Dorchester received an email requesting a change of payment information from someone it believed worked at an investment consulting firm.

“The complaint also alleges that the email came from what initially appeared to be the consulting firm’s true email address but was in fact a spoofed email address that had been changed by one letter. The spoofed email instructed the workers’ union to make a $6,400,000 transfer to a different bank account than had been previously arranged, which the workers union did, in fact, do.

“The spoofed email, however, was a fraudulent communication intended to mislead the workers union into unwittingly transferring funds to an account controlled by someone other than the intended recipient.

The fraudulently obtained funds were then allegedly transferred through a series of intermediary bank accounts – with some funds sent or attempted to be sent, to a cryptocurrency exchange and various bank accounts located in Hong Kong, China, Singapore and Nigeria.

“Investigators were able to trace proceeds of the scheme to seven domestically held bank accounts, the contents of which were subsequently seized by U.S. authorities,” it read.

PUNCH Online reports that this announcement implies that the US government is taking legal action to recover funds allegedly obtained through fraudulent means.

It involves cooperation between various law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to pursue the case.

The statement also highlights the legal process involved in civil forfeiture, indicating that the government must provide evidence to prove its case before any forfeiture can be ordered by the court.

Other parts of the statement read, “Acting U.S. Attorney Levy; Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Andrew Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Boston Field Office made the announcement today.

“The civil forfeiture action is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Lyons of the Asset Recovery Unit along with Trial Attorneys Jasmin Salehi Fashami and Adrienne E. Rosen of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering & Asset Recovery Section.

“The accusations in the complaint, and the description of the complaint, constitute only allegations that certain property is subject to forfeiture.

“The United States must prove, by a standard of preponderance of the evidence, that the property is subject to forfeiture. If the United States prevails, the court will order all interests of any potential claimant forfeited.”

A BEC scheme is a type of sophisticated fraud scheme targeting businesses that use wire transfers as a form of payment.

BEC schemes affect large global corporations, governments, and individuals, with current global daily losses estimated at approximately $8 million.

Criminals compromise legitimate business email accounts through various hacking schemes, including social engineering and the use of malware.

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Just In: President Tinubu approves N70,000 minimum wage

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President Bola Tinubu has approved N70,000 as the new minimum wage for Nigerian workers with a promise to review the national minimum wage law every three years.

 

More details later…

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Gov. Zulum Clarifies Son’s Purported Killing Of Chinese National At Indian Nightclub

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The Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum, has denied reports alleging that one of the sons has been arrested and sentenced to prison for the murder of some Indian citizens.

Reports has it that there were unverified rumours, especially on social media platforms, alleging that the first son of the governor, Umar Zulum Umara, killed the Chinese national during a fight at an Indian nightclub.

However, the Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on New Media, Abdurrahman Ahmed Bundi, dismissed the reports in a statement on Wednesday.

According to him, no son of the governor was arrested or charged with any crime.

The statement read, “attention of the Borno State Governor’s Media Unit has been drawn to rumours circulating that the son of the Borno State Governor has been arrested for the alleged murder of some Indian citizens.

“This misinformation was published in an online blog, Nairaland, titled “Son of Borno State Governor Murders Someone In India—Politics.” The blog claimed that the Governor also travelled to India, attempting to use diplomatic status to resolve the matter.

“It is on record that Governor Babagana Zulum was on a one-month vacation in Saudi Arabia for the 2024 Hajj and later travelled to Egypt to attend the annual ASUWAN forum conference in Cairo.

“The Media Unit would like to clarify and set the record straight that Nairaland and other online blogs have mischievously spread defamatory content without any speck of truth.

“We hereby warned Nairaland and all those who have spread the false information to pull down this misinformation from its website and platforms within the next 24 hours and offer an unreserved apology to Governor Zulum, his son, and the entire family, or risk legal action. The Governor shall also not hesitate to take legal action against any media outlet that continues to publicise this defamatory information on its platform.

“We would like to inform the public that none of Governor’s Zulum’s son was either arrested or charged with any crime, or involved in any unlawful activities anywhere.

“We urge the public to exercise caution when consuming and sharing information, particularly when it comes from unverified sources and blogs instead of credible media outlets.

“We enjoin all media organisations to engage in responsible journalism of truth and factual verification while recognising the potential harm and psychological trauma the spread of false information might have caused to the Governor’s family.”

 

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Over 600,000 Nigerians sought asylum abroad under Buhari – Report

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Over 600,000 Nigerians filed for asylum in other countries between 2016 and 2023, which were years under the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

Buhari was President from 2015 to 2023 and handed over to President Bola Tinubu who was sworn in on May 29, 2023, after winning in the general elections the same year.

According to a report released on Wednesday, July 17, 2024, by Statisense, a data collection organisation, of a total of 664,384 in eight years, 355,792 persons sought asylum between 2016 and 2019 while 308,592 sought asylum between 2020 and 2023.

On a year-by-year basis, 66,862 sought asylum in 2016, 91,924 in 2017, 84,624 (2018), 112,382 (2019), 73,233 (2020), 83,105 (2021), 83,402 (2022), and 68,852 in 2023.

The figures indicate a surge from the past years, as Statisense noted that within 12 years – 2004 to 2015 – only 204,791 Nigerians filed for asylum in other countries.

In total, 869,175 Nigerians filed for asylum in the last 20 years, notably from 2004 to 2023.

The report was posted on the organisation’s X.com handle @StatiSense, citing the United Nations Refugee Agency.

In another report shared by the organisation on Wednesday, it was stated that the Republic of Niger topped countries with the most Nigerian refugees in 2023 with about 200,497 Nigerians and a total of 1,268,464 Nigerian refugees between 2015 and 2023.

Niger, a border country, shares proximity with Nigeria’s north, where residents battle a spate of insecurity in the region ranging from banditry, terrorism and herdsmen-farmers crisis.

Another report also revealed that Nigerians topped the list of African countries who sought asylum in Canada in 2023 with about 10,111 asylum seekers followed by Kenya with 1,345.  It stated that 1,345 Nigerians however sought asylum in the United Kingdom and 5,136 in the United States of America.

Source: The Punch

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