JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nearly a dozen Nigerian citizens accused of sending “phishing” emails to U.S. companies seeking employee identifying information have been indicted on conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
U.S. Attorney Maria Chapa Lopez announced on Friday that 11 foreign nationals targeted multiple U.S. corporations with emails requesting that the companies’ payroll/human resources personnel send Internal Revenue Service W-2 forms containing employee information for review.
They used “spoofed” email addresses, which masked the actual email address, making it appear as if the message was sent from a high-level manager within the victim companies, according to prosecutors.
Badmus Yusuff Abayomi (29), Omo Oba Adekunle Abayomi (30), Yusuf Adesoji Adris (27), Abayomi Habeeb Ojo (25), Olaymei Afolabi Ojo (23), Akanni Fatai Olaiya (28), Seriki Abdulramon Oluwaseun (28), Adetayo Adekunle Oyemade (29), Edgar Ramos Ozil (34), Emmanuel Pius Osebomen (26) and Olaide Fatai Tijani (40), all of Lagos, Nigeria, were all charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud. If convicted, each faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.
Numerous companies around the United States were victimized by this sophisticated scheme, including a local Jacksonville-based business.
The defendants, once they obtained the tens of thousands of employee W-2 forms, used the information to file false federal income tax returns with the IRS, claiming millions of dollars in fraudulent refunds.
To receive the fraudulent tax refunds generated from the scheme, the defendants used individuals in the United States to accept the proceeds and send the money to Lagos.
In many instances, the individuals assisting in the United States were victims of a romance scheme, whereby the defendants developed online relationships using fake social media platforms.
An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed one or more violations of federal criminal law, and every defendant is presumed innocent unless, and until, proven guilty.