Federal authorities have arrested dozens of alleged fraudsters in an international takedown of Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes.
According to the Department of Justice, a total of 74 individuals were arrested, including 43 in the US, 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland.
The operation – dubbed Operation Wire Wire – was conducted over a six-month period and involved the coordinated effort of the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Treasury and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
In addition to the 74 arrests, federal authorities seized nearly $2.4 million and recovered approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.
“Fraudsters can rob people of their life’s savings in a matter of minutes,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions in a statement. “These are malicious and morally repugnant crimes.”
“The Department of Justice has taken aggressive action against fraudsters in recent months, conducting the largest sweep of fraud against American seniors in history back in February,” said Sessions.
The Justice Department noted BEC schemes often target employees with access to company finances and businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments. Individual victims, such as real estate purchasers and the elderly, are also frequently exploited.
In these sophisticated scams, fraudsters attempt to convince victims to make wire transfers to bank accounts controlled by criminals typically by impersonating a key employee or business partner. Meanwhile, individual victims are often lured through romance and lottery scams.
Since the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began tracking such schemes, victims have reported the loss of more than $3.7 billion.
“This operation demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses,” said FBI Director Christopher A. Wray.
“We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens,” added Wray.
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