In a wide-ranging operation, six-month-long operation that spanned three continents 74 individuals were arrested for operating a large-scale business email compromise (BEC)scheme.
Operation Wire Wire saw the U.S. Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service working with their international partners to bring down the operation that may have netted more than $14 million from BEC scams.
Forty-two of the 74 individuals involved were arrested in the United States, 29 in Nigeria and others in Canada, Mauritius and Poland.
“I want to thank the FBI, nearly a dozen U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, the Secret Service, Postal Inspection Services, Homeland Security Investigations, the Treasury Department, our partners in Nigeria, Poland, Canada, Mauritius, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and our state and local law enforcement partners for all of their hard work,” said U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in a statement.
Like most BEC scams the cybercriminals targeted small to medium sized business using socially-engineered emails to convince an employee to transfer money or valuable corporate data to the criminal operation.
“The operation is also a reminder that most major cybercrimes involve employee error and under-utilization of technology and education resources that can be used to defend our most trusted insiders,” Christy Wyatt, CEO of Dtex Systems, told SC Media.
Many of those arrested were part of the operations money laundering process. Twenty-three individuals were charged in the Southern District of Florida with allegedly laundering at least $10 million from proceeds of BEC scams.
Two Nigerian nationals were arrested in Dallas and charged in the Southern District of Georgia for allegedly running a BEC real estate scam. These people are alleged to have victimized a real estate closing attorney by sending the lawyer a spoofing email posing as the seller and requesting that proceeds of a real estate sale in the amount of $246,000 be wired to an account belonging to one of the defendants, the DOJ said. In addition, they are charged with laundering approximately $665,000 in illicit funds. The attorney experienced $130,000 in losses after the bank was notified of the fraud and froze.
Others were arrested and charged in the District of Connecticut for a BEC scam that garnered about $2.6 million and several more in the District of Massachusetts on another real estate scam and possessing the identities of two people with the intent of conducting wire fraud.