The Department of Justice has indicted two Americans and a Nigerian on multiple charges for their alleged roles in a phishing scheme that targeted college employees, banks and other businesses from May 2013 through June 2014.
Filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Mexico, the indictment identifies the defendants as Nigerian citizen Otuokere Sunday (aka Hulac Yun and Charles Quartz), and Americans Samantha Almodovar and Ardarari Byas, who were at one time students at the University of New Mexico and Southern Illinois University, respectively.
The DOJ alleges the trio was also aided by three additional unnamed co-conspirators, including another UNM student and two residents of China who acted as money mules. At least some of the unnamed mules were “unwitting” accomplices, the indictment states at one point.
The indictment accuses the three named defendants of sending phishing emails to at least 15 universities and three health care systems, tricking at least 50 employees into clicking on links that routed them to scam web pages with fake login screens. Thinking they were legitimately logging into employee accounts, the targets entered their payroll usernames and passwords. The defendants then allegedly used those credentials to access victims’ accounts and reroute their electronic payments to various money mules, who ultimately wired the funds to Nigeria.
Federal prosecutors have charged Sunday, Almodovar and Byas with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and identity theft, two counrts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.