US court jails Nigerian accused of running global email scam

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    A Manhattan federal court in New York has sentenced Onyekachi Emmanuel Opara to five years in prison for participating in business email compromise scams.

    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, made the announcement.

    FBI said the sentence was based upon Opara’s participation in fraudulent business email compromise scams that targeted thousands of victims in the US and around the world.

    “Through these scams, Opara and his co-conspirators attempted to defraud victims of over $25 million,” the FBI said.

    “On April 11, 2018, Opara pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud before US District Judge Paul A. Crotty, who imposed today’s sentence.”

    Berman said: “From halfway around the world, Onyekachi Emmanuel Opara ran a global email scam business that victimised thousands of people out of millions of dollars.

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    “The global reach of our office and the FBI ensured that Opara will serve time in the United States for his crimes.”

    The FBI said Opara pleaded guilty to the allegations in the indictment and statements made at the plea and sentencing proceedings.

    “Between 2014 and 2016, Opara and his co-defendant, David Chukwuneke Adindu (“Adindu”), participated in multiple business email compromise (“BEC”) scams that targeted thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, and Singapore,” the bureau said.

    The FBI said Opara sent bogus emails to employees of the victim companies directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts.

    The bureau added that the emails purported to be from supervisors at those companies or from third party vendors with whom the companies did business.

    In reality, however, the emails were either sent from email accounts with domain names very similar to those of the companies and vendors, or the metadata for the emails was modified to make it appear as if the emails had been sent from legitimate email addresses.

    After victims transferred the funds as directed in the bogus emails, the funds were quickly withdrawn or transferred to other bank accounts controlled by scheme participants.

    In total, the BEC scam participants attempted to steal more than $25 million from victims around the world, the FBI said.

    FBI said: “In furtherance of the BEC scams, OPARA created accounts on dating websites and entered into online romantic relationships with individuals in the United States by portraying himself as a young attractive woman named “Barbara.” “Barbara” would then instruct these individuals in the United States to send their money overseas and/or to receive money from BEC scams and forward the proceeds to other scheme participants located overseas.

    “For example, one victim with whom OPARA struck up a romantic relationship sent over $600,000 of the victim’s own money to bank accounts controlled by scheme participants at Opara’s direction.

    “Opara also attempted to recruit at least 14 other individuals via dating websites to receive funds from BEC scams into their bank accounts and then transfer the proceeds to overseas bank accounts.”

    The Nigerian was arrested on December 22, 2016, in South Africa, and was extradited to the US on January 26, 2018.

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