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US extradites Nigerian charged over $6m email fraud scam

Maybe our prince has come at last

A suspected Nigerian fraudster is scheduled to appear in court Friday for his alleged role in a $6 million plot to scam businesses via email.

Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, 29, is the first of three Nigerian men to have been extradited from Canada to the US after a federal grand jury charged the trio on seven counts including money laundering and wire fraud for their alleged roles in a scheme to defraud victims out of millions of dollars.

James Junior Aliyu, aka "Old Soldier" and "Ghost," age 28, and Henry Onyedikachi Echefu, age 31, have also been charged. They are thought to be living in South Africa.

According to court documents [PDF], the scam began around February 2016 and continued until July 2017, and involved co-conspirators in Maryland in addition to the three Nigerians.

The indictment names Fon Fomukong, Nkeng Amin, Carlson Cho and "other persons" as co-conspirators, though it doesn't specify if these individuals live in Maryland or elsewhere.

During this time, the suspects allegedly sent their marks emails that appeared to come from legit sources; these messages would instruct the recipients to send money to accounts owned by the fraudsters. The victims assumed they were doing the right thing, and paying off a legit bill or similar, but in actual fact were handing over cash to crooks.

It's a technique dubbed Business Email Compromise (BEC). As part of this, it's claimed, the fraudsters broke into people's email accounts, too, and chatted via mobile apps to organize their crimes.

"It was further part of the conspiracy and scheme to defraud that the defendants and their co-conspirators communicated via WhatsApp and other means of communication to provide information with each other related to the BEC schemes, including drop account and wire transfer information," according to the court documents.

BEC continues to be billon-dollar business for cybercrooks — and a top priority for law enforcement. In 2022 alone, the FBI received 21,832 BEC complaints with adjusted losses over $2.7 billion [PDF]. 

Specific to this case, Simon-Ebo is charged in three wire fraud counts involving $6,343,533.10 in victim funds being wired to accounts controlled by conspirators.

In another case, Aliyu "did knowingly conduct and attempt to conduct a financial transaction affecting interstate and foreign commerce," the indictment alleges, citing a $350,000 wire transfer from a Bank of America account located in Maryland to a bank account in South Africa.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for the wire fraud conspiracy, for the money laundering conspiracy, and for each count of wire fraud. Aliyu also faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for money laundering. ®

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