A Nigerian citizen residing in Accra, Ghana, has been extradited to the US to stand trial for an indictment charging him with wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, US Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office made the announcement.
On August 23, 2017, a federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee indicted Babatunde Martins, 64, and others with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft. Following his extradition, Martins’ initial appearance was made this week before the US Magistrate court for the Western District of Tennessee.
The indictment alleges that various Africa-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016. Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties and then redirected closing funds through a network of US-based money mules to final destinations in Africa. Commonly referred to as business-email compromise (or BEC), this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis.
In addition to BEC, the defendant is also charged with perpetrating romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams and credit card scams.
The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Africa through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the various Internet scams.
The defendant is specifically alleged to have owned and operated a company called Afriocean that he used in furtherance of these crimes. The defendant, along with his co-conspirators, is believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe.
An indictment is an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme. Two others, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 30, were convicted in March after a seven-day trial in the US District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Abegunde received a 78-month sentence and Ramos-Alonso received a 31-month sentence for their roles in the scheme. Several individuals remain at large.
The FBI led the investigation. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs, as well as the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Accra, the FBI Transnational Organized Crime of the Eastern Hemisphere Section of the Criminal Investigative Division, the FBI’s Major Cyber Crimes Unit of the Cyber Division, and FBI’s International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center all provided significant support in this case, as did the US Marshals Service, INTERPOL Washington, the INTERPOL Unit of the Ghana Police Service, Ghana’s Office of Attorney General, and Ghana’s Economic and Organised Crime Office.
Senior Trial Attorney Timothy C. Flowers of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section and Assistant US Attorney Debra L. Ireland of the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the case, with significant assistance from the Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs.