Nigerian Sentenced to 4 Years for Scamming US Citizens31-Year-Old and Co-Conspirators Aimed to Steal $1 Million, Justice Department Says
A U.S. federal judge sentenced a Nigerian national to four years in prison for running several cyber-enabled schemes aimed at defrauding U.S. citizens out of more than $1 million. The men were arrested four years ago and extradited to Arizona in 2022 from Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
Solomon Ekunke Okpe, 31, of Lagos, and his co-conspirator, Johnson Uke Obogo, orchestrated business email compromise phishing attacks and a variety of schemes including "work from home" offers and check cashing, romance and credit card scams that targeted individuals, banks and other businesses, the U.S. Department of Justice said Monday.
Okpe and Obogo ran the operations between December 2011 and January 2017, court documents said. The two men were arrested four years ago in Malaysia and the United Kingdom, respectively, at the request of U.S. law enforcement and fought extradition until 2022, when they were transferred to the U.S. District of Arizona.
The Justice Department did not disclose the number of victims or the amount of money lost in the scams, but it said the victims included title insurance and mortgage-related service firm First American Holding Co., a regional branch of First American Bank and MidFirst Bank.
Both men pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to commit wire, bank and mail fraud. Okpe pleaded guilty to an additional count of aggravated identity theft.
The court on March 20 sentenced Obogo to one year and one day in prison in connection with his role in the financial fraud schemes.
Phishing for Victims
Okpe and his co-conspirators used phishing attacks to steal victims' login credentials and other sensitive information. With this information, they hacked into online accounts, impersonated people and assumed fake identities to defraud individuals, banks and businesses, the Justice Department said.
Okpe also deceived banks and companies into making unauthorized wire transfers to bank accounts owned by him. He also enlisted others by posing as online employers on job websites and forums to hire people to unwittingly perform fraudulent tasks, the Justice Department said.
"Some of these tasks included creating bank and payment processing accounts, transferring/withdrawing money from these accounts or cashing/depositing counterfeit checks," the Justice Department said.
Okpe and Obogo also stole thousands of dollars through romance scams, pretending to look for love on dating websites and duping victims into transferring funds.