Nineteen Charged in Houston Area as Part of International Operation Targeting Individuals in Business Email Compromise Schemes
HOUSTON, TX—Nineteen individuals have been charged in the Houston-area as part of a four-month long international law enforcement operation dubbed “Operation reWired” targeting Business email Compromise (BEC) Schemes and its perpetrators. Of the 19 individuals charged, 12 of them have been arrested.
The FBI Houston Field Office partnered with the Houston Police Department, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office (HCDAO), the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office (FBCDAO), and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Texas and Western District of Texas for “Operation reWired”, a coordinated law enforcement effort launched in May 2019 by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of State.
The dozen individuals arrested locally were among the 281 arrested in the United States and overseas. The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million.
BEC, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” is a sophisticated scam often targeting employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. The same criminal organizations that perpetrate BEC also exploit individual victims, often real estate purchasers, the elderly, and others, by convincing them to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by the criminals. This is often accomplished by impersonating a key employee or business partner after obtaining access to that person’s email account or sometimes done through romance and lottery scams.
Foreign citizens perpetrate many BEC scams. Those individuals are often members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria, but have spread throughout the world.
Among those arrested in the Houston area are:
- Larry Banard Hood – HCDAO – Money Laundering over $300K
- Olufisayo Oladejo – HCDAO – Money Laundering over $300K; Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity
- Akintoye Okutola Senboye – HCDAO – Money Laundering over $300K
- Jason Jarrod McGruder – HCDAO – Money Laundering ($150K to $300K); Tampering With a Governmental Document
- Davis Emeka Lewechi – HCDAO – Tampering With a Governmental Document; Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity
- Osinachi Jeff Ezekwem – HCDAO – Money Laundering ($30K to $150K); Engaging in Organized Criminal Activity
- Don Ifechukwo Agbam – HCDAO – Money Laundering over $300K
- Adolph Chinaka Ukah – HCDAO – Money Laundering over $300K
- Omomofe Esther Lawrence – FBCDAO – Money Laundering
- Lilian Taiye Obayemi – FBCDAO – Money Laundering
The names of two other arrestees are not being released due to investigative reasons.
An indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), nearly $1.3 billion in loss was reported in 2018 from BEC and its variant, email Account Compromise (EAC), nearly twice as much as was reported the prior year.
When it comes to BEC fraud with domestic wire transfers going to fraudulent accounts, Houston is at the top of large cities in the United States through which these transfers pass.
Victims of BEC are encouraged to file a complaint online with the IC3 at bec.ic3.gov.
For more information on BEC scams, visit: https://www.ic3.gov/media/2019/190910.aspx.