Three Nigerian citizens, Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, James Junior Aliyu, and Henry Onyedikachi Echefu, have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering in connection with a business email compromise (BEC) scheme.
The indictment was returned on June 24, 2019, and unsealed on July 6, 2022, after the defendants were arrested outside the United States.
Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, the first of the three defendants, has been extradited from Canada to the United States to face a federal indictment.
He is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Amjel Quereshi in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on Friday, April 14, 2023, at 3:30 p.m.
According to the seven-count indictment, the defendants conspired with others to perpetrate a BEC scheme from February 2016 until at least July 2017.
The indictment alleges that the defendants gained unauthorized access to email accounts associated with individuals and businesses targeted by the conspirators.
The co-conspirators allegedly sent false wiring instructions to the victims’ email accounts from “spoofed” emails to deceive the victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by perpetrators of the scheme, called “drop accounts.”
The defendants are also accused of conspiring to commit money laundering by disbursing the fraudulently obtained funds in the drop accounts to other accounts, withdrawing cash, obtaining cashier’s checks, and writing checks to other individuals and entities to hide the true ownership and source of those assets.
Specifically, Simon-Ebo was charged with three wire fraud counts involving $6,343,533.10 in victim funds being wired to accounts controlled by conspirators.
The indictment alleges that Aliyu made a $350,000 wire transfer from one of the drop accounts in Maryland to an account he controlled in South Africa, knowing that the funds were the proceeds of a crime and that the transaction was designed to conceal the nature, source, and ownership of those funds.
If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for the wire fraud conspiracy, for the money laundering conspiracy, and for each count of wire fraud. If convicted, Aliyu also faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for money laundering.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt, and an individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
The United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Erek L. Barron, commended Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation and thanked the Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly O. Hayes, who is prosecuting the federal case.