In Austin this afternoon, a Nigerian National formerly residing in San Antonio and Austin pleaded guilty to his role in a Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud conspiracy that laundered millions of dollars, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio; and, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Houston Division.
Appearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin, 31-year-old Chibuzor Stanley Uba pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder monetary instruments. By pleading guilty, Uba admitted to conspiring with others to collect funds by defrauding U.S. and foreign victims through BEC schemes.
Uba’s co-defendants include fellow Nigerian Nationals: Bameyi Kelvin Omale, a 32-year-old resident of Houston; Nnamdi Nwosu, a 32-year-old resident of Houston; Chinonso Agbaji, a 30-year-old resident of Houston; and, Igho Calaba, a 25-year-old resident of Austin. Omale, Agbaji and Calaba have all pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy charge and are awaiting sentencing. Uba, Omale, Agbaji and Calaba face up to 20 years in federal prison. Nwosu remains a fugitive in this case.
According to the indictment in this case and court records, Uba and his codefendants were also conspiring with Joseph Odibobhahemen and Nosa Onaghise. Odibobhahemen and Onaghise, who were charged in a separate indictment, have previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Court records also reflect that over $10 million was allegedly sent by victims to accounts controlled by the conspirators, who were able to take in excess of $6 million before law enforcement or financial institutions stopped the fraudulent transfers.
In a BEC scheme, scammers target businesses and individuals making wire transfer payments, often targeting employees with access to company finances. The scammers trick the employees into making wire transfer payments to bank accounts thought to belong to trusted partners—except the money ends up in accounts controlled by the fraudsters. Sometimes the scammers use computer intrusion techniques to alter legitimate payment request emails, changing the recipient bank accounts. Sometimes they send spoofed emails from email addresses similar to the real email accounts used by trusted partners.
Whatever the BEC method used, the scammers need bank accounts controlled by coconspirators to collect the stolen money. The conspirators in this investigation acquired or controlled dozens of bank accounts opened in the U.S., including in Austin, TX, utilizing fraudulent identification documents, including fraudulent foreign passports in fake names. Once the funds were fraudulently procured and deposited into these bogus accounts, the defendants worked quickly to withdraw or transfer the funds.
This indictment resulted from a continuing investigation by HSI and USPIS. The FBI also assisted in the investigation as did the California Highway Patrol. The U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Southern District of Texas and the Southern District of New York also provided assistance. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Galdo and Keith Henneke are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
Anyone with information as to the whereabouts of Nnamdi Nwosu is asked to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). ICE encourages the public to report any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. Nwosu is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
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