The Blackfriars Crown Court in the United Kingdom has sentenced six Nigerians and five other foreigners to more than 43 years imprisonment for defrauding many businesses and individuals of millions of dollars.
The Nigerians include three brothers, two women who are wives to two of the brothers, and the sixth person who is their associate.
UK’s Metropolitan Police revealed that the criminals were convicted between 26 and 28 March for their roles in a large-scale “diversion fraud” scam using hacking software.
The convicted Nigerians are:
- Bonaventure Sunday Chukwuka, 41 (21.08.77) of Roding Gardens, Loughton, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property (money laundering). He was also found guilty of possession of a prohibited item (a phone) in prison. Chukwuka was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment.
- Andrew Chike Chukwu, 35 (19.09.83) of River Road, Buckhurst Hill, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property. He was handed 10 years’ imprisonment.
- Emmanuel Chike Chukwuka (brother), 27 (11.12.91) of Roding Gardens, Loughton, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to money launder and was sentenced to two years and eight months’ imprisonment.
- Christian Chukwuka (brother), 39 (24.12.79) of Latchetts Shaw, Basildon, Essex was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property. He got five years and nine months’ imprisonment.
- Queen Chukwuka, 32 (01.10.86) of Roding Gardens, Loughton was found guilty of acquiring/possessing criminal property and was sentenced to a community order.
- Grace Plange Chukwu, 39 (20.02.80) of River Road, Buckhurst Hill, was found guilty of acquiring/possessing criminal property. She, however, got a conditional discharge.
The gang was reportedly led by Bonaventure Chukwuka, targeting businesses and individuals by hacking into their email accounts, and stealing large sums of money.
Officers from the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad launched the investigation after receiving referrals from Action Fraud.
It was revealed that total of 228 separate frauds committed by the same network between 2014 to 2018, and totalling £10,112,312.54.
During the trial, which lasted for six months, a total of 69 victims provided, with many of them have been unable to recover their losses.
he gang used computer malware to intercept and steal the log-in details of email accounts belonging to businesses and private individuals worldwide, with the intent of identifying high-value financial transactions.
They then intercepted emails about these transactions and sent spoof emails, duping the victims into paying the funds into alternative UK-based “mule” bank accounts – accounts obtained and controlled by the fraudsters for this purpose – instead of the intended recipient.
They were used to receive the proceeds of the diversion fraud, where the money was quickly transferred onto other accounts, some of which were untraceable.
The fraudsters also used the funds from mule accounts to buy and export thousands of pounds of baby milk to Nigeria, to launder the money.
One of the fraud victims was a small construction company with a small team of employees based in the south west of England. It was defrauded out of nearly £13,000 by the group in 2017 and had to close as a result.
Upon conviction, officers will now begin confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to try and recover the money stolen.
DC Chris Collins, of the Falcon Fraud Squad, said: “This gang of fraudsters were unscrupulous, organised and prolific, and over a period of four years stole millions of pounds from unsuspecting businesses and individuals, and lived an extremely comfortable life with the profits.
“The frauds were brazen, and this gang clearly thought they could continue with their criminal lifestyle without detection. However, arrests followed what was a complex investigation carried out diligently by the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad, with hundreds of fraud reports being reviewed by detectives trawling through financial records.
“The evidence amassed by detectives and presented during the trial pointed towards a large-scale, planned fraud operation which involved payments arranged between two parties being successfully intercepted and diverted by this gang, into “mule” accounts set up for the purpose of receiving stolen funds.
“I hope this conviction sends a strong message to online fraudsters: we have the ways and means of tracing you and we will seek to bring you to justice.
“We would advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to, by contacting the intended recipient and taking precautions to ensure the money is going to the right place.”
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