Two men have been found guilty for their roles in a fraud operation in which cybercriminals spoofed emails, built fake online dating profiles, and fooled victims into sending them money.
Nigerian citizen Olufolajimi Abegunde and Mexican citizen Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso were both part of a cybercriminal organization that manipulated people into sending money to bogus bank accounts under the group’s control, the Department of Justice reports. Funds were laundered and wired out of the United States to various locations, West Africa among them.
Abegunde participated in black-market currency exchanges throughout the scheme and portrayed himself as a legitimate businessman, the report states. Evidence shows the business he claimed to work with was not operational in late 2017; his primary income came from off-the-record currency transactions. He reportedly told people he preferred cash as it “eliminated the risk.”
Using the cybercriminal network, Abegunde and Ramos-Alonso laundered fraud funds from an July 2016 business email compromise (BEC) scam of a real-estate business based in Tennessee, followed by an October 2016 BEC scam on a Washington-based land title company. Further, Ramos-Alonso engaged in a three-year relationship with someone he met through an online dating website. He consistently sent her money using a network of people based in Africa and the US, and evidence showed the woman was a front for people linked to the money-laundering scheme.
Five more people have pleaded guilty for their roles in this operation, and three foreign nationals are awaiting extradition to the US to face trial. Others remain at large. Sentencing for Abegunde and Ramos-Alonso is set for June 21, 2019.
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