American Federal agents have busted dozens of Ghanaians and Nigerians involved in cyber fraud popularly called “Sakawa” in Ghana.
According to a March 13, 2020 statement by the United States Department of Justice, the cartel involves approximately 24 individuals of Ghanaian and Nigerian descent.
“Federal agents have arrested twenty-four individuals for their involvement in a large-scale fraud and money laundering operation that targeted citizens, corporations, and financial institutions throughout the United States. Business email compromise schemes, romance fraud scams, and retirement account scams, among other frauds, duped numerous victims into losing more than $30 million,” the statement read.
“Fraud schemes, like the ones perpetrated and facilitated by these defendants, inflict considerable losses on citizens, companies, and the financial system,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak. “Some of these schemes target the elderly and often deplete the victims’ entire life savings. These arrests affirm the Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecuting those who prey on our most vulnerable citizens.”
According to U.S. Attorney Pak, the indictment, and other information presented in court: The defendants served as money launderers for other individuals throughout the world who conducted cyber-enabled fraud, including business email compromise schemes, romance scams, and retirement account scams, targeted at companies and individuals across the United States.
A “business email compromise” (BEC) is a type of computer intrusion that occurs when an employee of a company is tricked into interacting with an email message that appears to be but is not, legitimate. The fraudulent email instructs the victim to wire money to a bank account controlled by conspirators.
“The defendants and co-conspirators facilitated BEC schemes, romance scams, and retirement account scams by receiving and distributing fraudulent funds throughout the United States and the world. Over the course of the conspiracy, the defendants and their co-conspirators laundered over $30 million in fraud proceeds. The defendants created multiple sham companies that did not have physical premises, earn legitimate income, or pay wages to employees,” the statement explained.
“In turn, the defendants opened business bank accounts at multiple financial institutions to facilitate receipt of the fraudulent money. The defendants also opened personal bank accounts to receive fraudulent funds, often using false identities and victims’ identities. After funds were deposited into the defendants’ bank accounts, the money was quickly withdrawn from the accounts and circulated among the defendants.”
The names of the 24 and their aliases were also listed in the statement.