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Nigerian man extradited to US over alleged $6 million BEC scam

A Nigerian man is scheduled to appear in a Maryland federal court Friday to begin facing charges that he and two others ran a business email compromise (BEC) scam that took more than $6 million from victims.

Kosi Goodness Simon-Ebo, 29, was extradited from Canada to the U.S. on Wednesday, the Justice Department said in an announcement. He and James Junior Aliyu, 28, and Henry Onyedikachi Echefu, 31, have been indicted on charges related to wire fraud and money laundering.

From February 2016 until at least July 2017, the trio worked with co-conspirators in Maryland to break into business email accounts and use them to trick people into fraudulent transactions, prosecutors said.

The suspects “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 announcement said.

The three Nigerian men carried out the scam from South Africa, the Justice Department said. Simon-Ebo was later arrested in Canada, court documents said, while Aliyu — also known as “Old Soldier” and “Ghost” — and Echefu were apprehended in South Africa.

BEC fraud cases are a priority for federal law enforcement, with the FBI noting last year that the scams had led to an estimated $43 billion in losses up to that point.

Recent BEC indictments have included charges against four California men in December, while a Nigerian influencer known as Hushpuppi was sentenced to 11 years in U.S. prison in November. Cybersecurity researchers reported that month that a major Nigeria-based operation dubbed “Lilac Wolverine” was ongoing. A Georgia man was sentenced to 25 years in prison in October for scams that included BEC attacks.

The alleged leader of the notorious BEC group SilverTerrier was arrested by Interpol in May 2022.

Simon-Ebo and Echefu are charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Aliyu faces those accusations as well as additional counts of directly laundering money.

“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,” prosecutors said.

The charges that apply to all three men have maximum prison sentences of 20 years. Aliyu also faces an additional maximum sentence of 20 years for the money laundering charge.

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Joe Warminsky

Joe Warminsky

is the news editor for Recorded Future News. He has more than 25 years experience as an editor and writer in the Washington, D.C., area. Most recently he helped lead CyberScoop for more than five years. Prior to that, he was a digital editor at WAMU 88.5, the NPR affiliate in Washington, and he spent more than a decade editing coverage of Congress for CQ Roll Call.