WASHINGTON – June 13, 2018 – Federal authorities announced Monday that an investigation of email wire fraud resulted in 74 arrests in the U.S. and overseas: 42 people in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius, and Poland.
The arrests included a 25-year-old man in Fort Lauderdale. In the case being prosecuted in the District of Massachusetts, the Florida man was indicted in federal court in Boston on June 6 on one count of money laundering conspiracy.
According to the indictment, the individual and co-conspirators allegedly gained access to email accounts belonging to a Massachusetts real estate attorney, and they sent emails to recipients in Massachusetts that “spoofed” the real estate attorney’s account. Their goal was to get the email recipient to transfer nearly $500,000 intended to be used as payment in connection with a real estate transaction to a shell account belonging to a money mule recruited and controlled by the defendant.
Overall, the participating federal agencies participating in “Operation Wire Wire” –the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Treasury and U.S. Postal Inspection Service – seized nearly $2.4 million and recovered about $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers. The arrests were made as part of the six-month Operation Wire Wire investigation.
The scams are considered “Business Email Compromise” schemes because hackers must gain access to business email accounts in order to make it work. While the investigations included some real estate transactions, scammers were focused on any type of deal in which a recipient is required to wire money elsewhere.
For the past two years, Florida Realtors, the National Association of Realtors® and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to real estate professionals and consumers that scammers attempt to pose as real estate professionals and title insurance companies as a way to dupe homebuyers out of their downpayment and closing costs.
“Fraudsters can rob people of their life’s savings in a matter of minutes,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement. “These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes. The Department of Justice has taken aggressive action against fraudsters in recent months, conducting the largest sweep of fraud against American seniors in history back in February. … We will continue to go on offense against fraudsters so that the American people can have safety and peace of mind.”