The first of three defendants, Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, age 29, has been extradited from Canada to the United States to face a federal indictment and is scheduled to have his initial appearance on Friday, April 14, 2023, at 3:30 p.m. in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt before U.S. Magistrate Judge Amjel Quereshi.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment charging Simon-Ebo, James Junior Aliyu, a/k/a “Old Soldier,” and “Ghost,” age 28 and Henry Onyedikachi Echefu, age 31, all Nigerian citizens residing in South Africa, with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering and for wire fraud and money laundering charges related to a business email compromise (“BEC”) scheme with losses of more than $6 million.
The indictment was returned on June 24, 2019, and unsealed on July 6, 2022, upon the defendants’ arrests outside the United States.
The indictment was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Special Agent in Charge Matthew R. Stohler of the U.S. Secret Service – Washington Field Office.
According to the seven-count indictment, from February 2016 until at least July 2017, the defendants conspired with others to perpetrate a BEC scheme. Specifically, the indictment alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators, including co-conspirators residing in Maryland, gained unauthorized access to email accounts associated with individuals and businesses targeted by the conspirators. The co-conspirators then allegedly sent false wiring instructions to the victims’ email accounts from “spoofed” emails, which are emails with forged sender addresses, to deceive the victims into sending money to bank accounts controlled by perpetrators of the scheme, called “drop accounts.”
The indictment also alleges that the defendants conspired to commit money laundering by disbursing the fraudulently obtained funds in the drop accounts to other accounts by initiating account transfers, withdrawing cash, obtaining cashier’s checks and by writing checks to other individuals and entities, to hide the true ownership and the source of those assets. For example, defendant Aliyu is alleged to have made a $350,000 wire transfer from one of the drop accounts in Maryland to an account he controlled in South Africa, knowing that the funds were the proceeds of a crime and that the transaction was designed to conceal the nature, source and ownership of those funds. Finally, the defendants are charged with wire fraud, related to the BEC scheme. Specifically, Simon-Ebo is charged in three wire fraud counts involving $6,343,533.10 in victim funds being wired to accounts controlled by conspirators.
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. If convicted, Aliyu also faces a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for money laundering. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI’s Mid-Atlantic El Dorado Task Force and the U.S. Secret Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly O. Hayes, who is prosecuting the federal case.
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