The New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States of America has confirmed that Nigerian national, Onyekachi Emmanuel Opara, has been extradited from South Africa to the United States of America for being involved in e-mail scams. Opara is reported to have been involved in thousands of e-mail compromise scams that tried to swindle millions of dollars from different people across the world.
The FBI is able to extradite Opara from South Africa because some of his victims are citizens of the USA.
“As alleged, Onyekachi Opara attempted to dupe thousands of victims into transferring money to him and his co-defendant in a phony email scheme. Today’s extradition shows that defendants who allegedly target American victims from a distance are nonetheless subject to the reach of American justice,” said Geoffrey S. Berman, Manhattan U.S. Attorney.
Opara is the second high profile arrest by USA authorities in a couple of months in relation to e-mail compromise scams. In December 2017, a 67-year-old American man, Michael Neu, was arrested by Louisiana's Slidell Police Department's Financial Crimes Division after an 18-month investigation into his involvement in "Nigerian prince" e-mail scams. Neu is said to not have acted alone in conducting the scams, as the Slidell Police confirmed that he does work with co-conspirators who reside in Nigeria.
The FBI say that Opara arrived in the Southern District of New York on the morning of 26 January 2018. Already, according to USA's law enforcement agencies, Opara's co-defendant, David Chukwuneke Adindu has been sentenced to 41 months in prison for participating in the e-mail compromise scams.
“Technology changes daily, so do the tactics used by scammers to prey on unsuspecting victims. This case and others we are aggressively investigating every day prove, regardless of these criminals efforts to disguise their illegal activity, we won’t stop pursuing them. FBI New York Cyber Crime agents and our law enforcement partners will search out suspects in these cases, even reaching internationally, to stop the next victims from losing their money,” said William F. Sweeney Jr., Assistant Director at the FBI.
According to the allegations lodged against Opara in the indictment which was unsealed on 26 January 2018 in Manhattan federal court, between 2014 and 2016, Opara and Adindu participated in Business E-mail Compromise scams (“BEC scams”) where they sent e-mails to employees of various companies directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts. The e-mails would pretend to be from supervisors at those employees' companies or third-party vendors that did business with those companies. Opara and Adindu would send these e-mails either from e-mail accounts with a domain name that was very similar to a legitimate domain name, or the metadata in the e-mails had been modified so that the e-mails appeared as if they were from legitimate e-mail addresses. After victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, the transferred funds were quickly withdrawn or moved into different bank accounts.
In total, the FBI says, the BEC scams attempted to defraud millions of dollars from victims.