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7 years in prison for laundering business email compromise fraud proceeds

Department of Justice

U.S. Attorney’s Office

Southern District of New York


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Money Launderer Sentenced To 84 Months In Prison

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that VICTOR AHAIWE was sentenced to 84 months in prison today for participating in a multi-million-dollar conspiracy to launder the proceeds of business email compromise frauds targeting businesses and non-profit organizations and romance frauds targeting individual victims.  AHAIWE was convicted by a jury in June 2021 of bank fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and aggravated identity theft in a trial presided over by U.S. District Judge Denise L. Cote, who also imposed today’s sentence. 

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “The defendants in this case were part of a wide-reaching conspiracy to launder over $10 million stolen from businesses and individuals. The sentences imposed on the ten defendants send a message: that this type of activity will be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.”

According to court filings and statements made in court proceedings, including the trial at which AHAIWE was convicted:

From at least in or about March 2018 up to and including at least in or about January 2020, AHAIWE and his coconspirators conspired to launder the proceeds of numerous business email compromise schemes and romance schemes, in which corporate, organizational, and individual victims were fraudulently induced to send over $10 million to bank accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy, in the mistaken belief that those accounts belonged to the intended recipients of the funds.  Members of the conspiracy received the victim funds by opening bank accounts in the names of the intended recipients, transferred the funds through additional accounts to hide the origin and fraudulent nature of the proceeds, and ultimately transferred most of those proceeds to foreign bank accounts or withdrew them in cash.

AHAIWE participated in the scheme by stealing the identity of a recently deceased friend and using that identity to open and operate bank accounts to launder a portion of the proceeds from a $500,000 business email compromise fraud against a foreign public agency that provides health insurance and pension benefits.  AHAIWE also previously laundered hundreds of thousands of dollars of proceeds from other business email compromise frauds and, in connection with those activities, stole and used the identities of several other individuals.  In imposing today’s sentence, Judge Cote also found that AHAIWE engaged in obstruction of justice in connection with his sentencing by submitting fabricated sentencing letters. 

AHAIWE was the tenth defendant to be sentenced for participating in the money laundering conspiracy.  The nine previously sentenced defendants, each of whom pleaded guilty, received the following sentences:

Defendant

Age

Hometown

Sentence

PRINCE UKO

46

Jonesboro, GA

41 months (prison)

SUNDAY OKORO

41

Jonesboro, GA

41 months (prison)

IKECHUKWU ELENDU

41

San Leandro, CA

41 months (prison)

ARINZE OBIKA

33

Queens, NY

33 months (prison)

BRITT JACKSON

43

Columbus, GA

33 months (prison)

HERMAN BASS

37

Hawthorne, CA

30 months (prison)

JACOB SAGIAO

47

Oxnard, CA

30 months (prison)

MARYLYNN PENEUETA

46

Oxnard, CA

12 months (prison)

JOSHUA FITTEN

25

Hacienda Heights, CA

5 years (probation)

*                *                *

In addition to the prison sentence, AHAIWE was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $514,063, as recompense to the victims affected, and to pay forfeiture in the amount of $590,123, reflecting criminal proceeds that he received in connection with his money laundering and identity theft.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Secret Service and its Electronic Crimes Task Force, the FBI, CBP, and special agents of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Jun Xiang, Kevin Mead, and Michael McGinnis are in charge of the prosecution.

Link:

DOJ Press Release

Categories: Anti-Money Laundering Department of Justice (DOJ) Updates Email Compromise Fraud Enforcement Actions Fraud Indictments and Arrests

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