A multinational criminal conspiracy used fake email addresses to transfer money to a Nigerian bank account from unsuspecting businesses in the Virgin Islands and other jurisdictions. This resulted in an indictment that was overturned in the U.S. District Court on Tuesday.
One of the people involved, Marvelous Eghaghe, was indicted by a grand jury on November 19 and charged with wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. According to a press release by US attorney Gretchen Shappert, the charges were overturned after Eghaghe was arrested in Houston.
Eghaghe founded a company in Texas, “Iriavel International, Inc.” which, according to the indictment, “had no regular legitimate businesses, employees or customers.”
From March 2018 to April 2019, Eghaghe and others used the company’s bank account to develop a system by which they would “intervene in the email communications” of legitimate companies. The various victims and companies targeted by the fraud are identified by their initials on court documents and are located in St. Thomas, Colombia, Alabama, and Texas.
The scheme, commonly known as “spoofing”, involved impersonating one of the legitimate parties in order to trick the other party into transferring money to the scammers. The VI Water and Power Authority lost more than $ 2 million in a similar scam in 2018 after hackers using a vendor email address instructed WAPA to make payments by wire transfer to fraudulent accounts. The hackers then transferred the $ 2.16 million to other accounts in China and elsewhere, according to court records.
On March 9, 2018, Eghaghe and his co-conspirators broke into a real estate transaction in St. Thomas in which a lawyer representing the seller and a law firm representing the buyer were charged and “108,637 via fraudulent email communications “Have caused $ 81 in funds” that are intended for the transfer of a real estate transaction to the Iriavel account.
Regardless, between February and March 2018, Eghaghe’s conspiracy forged checks worth over $ 2 million from an Alabama company without the company’s approval and deposited the stolen funds into bank accounts controlled by Eghaghe and his co-conspirators on indictment.
In addition, Eghaghe’s conspiracy convinced a representative of a Colombia-based company to electronically transfer $ 34,965 to Iriavel’s account on March 6, 2018, and convinced a victim identified as “ND” to pay an additional $ 48,000, according to nine pages transfer charges. Eghaghe “issued, transferred, and otherwise removed the stolen money from the Iriavel account”, “within days of the funds being in the account before the Iriavel account was forcibly closed by the bank”.
He withdrew approximately $ 70,600 from the Iriavel account, purchased money orders of $ 13,510 from the account balance, and made more than $ 30,000 for between March 6, 2018 and March 13, 2018, according to indictments other electronic transfers.
In addition, on March 13, 2018, according to the indictment, Eghaghe electronically transferred $ 40,000 in fraudulently received funds from the Iriavel account, an account in the United States, to a bank account in Nigeria.
Prosecutors have asked the court to order Eghaghe to forfeit any funds fraudulently received if convicted. The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by US assistant attorney Nathan Brooks.