United States Attorney
Southern District of New York
Note: A copy of the indictment can be found here
NEW YORK – U.S. Attorney Damian Williams for the Southern District of New York and Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll of the FBI New York Field Office announced today that Chibundu Joseph Anuebunwa, a citizen of Nigeria, was extradited from the United Kingdom and arrived in the United States this afternoon. Anuebunwa was extradited on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with his alleged participation in a multimillion-dollar business email compromise campaign that targeted thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States. Anuebunwa will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Katharine H. Parker. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty. In connection with the same conspiracy as Anuebunwa, co-defendant David Chukwuneke Adindu was previously sentenced to 41 months in prison, and co-defendant Onyekachi Emmanuel Opara was previously extradited from South Africa and sentenced to 60 months in prison.
“As alleged in the indictment, Chibundu Joseph Anuebunwa tried to steal money from thousands of businesses around the world by impersonating corporate executives and sending phony emails to company employees,” said U.S. Attorney Williams. “Today’s extradition should serve as a warning to those who think they can defraud victims in the United States from halfway around the world: the United States and its international partners will find you and hold you accountable no matter how long it takes.”
According to the allegations in the indictment unsealed today in Manhattan federal court.
Between 2014 and 2016, Anuebunwa, Opara and Adindu participated in business email compromise scams (BEC scams) targeting thousands of victims around the world, including in the United States. As part of the BEC scams, emails were sent to employees of various companies directing that funds be transferred to specified bank accounts. The emails purported to be from supervisors at those companies or third-party vendors that did business with those companies. The emails, however, were not legitimate. Rather, they were either from email accounts with a domain name that was very similar to a legitimate domain name, or the metadata in the emails had been modified so that the emails appeared as if they were from legitimate email addresses. After victims complied with the fraudulent wiring instructions, the transferred funds were quickly withdrawn or moved into different bank accounts. In total, the BEC scams attempted to defraud millions of dollars from victims.
Anuebunwa and others carried out BEC scams by exchanging information regarding: (1) bank accounts used for receiving funds from victims; (2) email accounts used for communicating with victims; (3) scripts for requesting wire transfers from victims; and (4) lists of names and email addresses for contacting and impersonating potential victims.
Anuebunwa, 39, of Lagos, Nigeria, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and one count of wire fraud, which also carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
U.S. Attorney Williams praised the investigative work of the FBI and thanked the Yahoo E-Crime Investigations Team for their assistance. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of International Affairs of the Department’s Criminal Division provided significant assistance in securing the defendant’s extradition from the United Kingdom. U.S. Attorney Williams also thanked the United Kingdom’s Crown Prosecution Service for their assistance in today’s extradition.
This case is being handled by the office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Andrew K. Chan and Daniel Loss are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.