United States (US) authorities have announced the extradition of three Nigerians from the United Kingdom (UK) to face charges in America for defrauding different American universities and other victims to the tune of $5 million.
The suspects are Oludayo Adeagbo (alias John Edwards and John Dayo), 43, a Nigerian citizen and UK resident, and Donald Echeazu (aka Donald Smith and Donald Dodient), 40, a dual UK and Nigerian citizen, and Olabanji Egbinola, 42.
According to a statement released on Wednesday by the US Attorney General’s Office for the Southern District of New York, they are charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.
They allegedly defrauded a North Carolina University (The University) of more than $1.9 million via a business email compromise scheme.
The US authorities said they took part in a $5 million cyber-enabled business email compromise (BEC) scheme to defraud unsuspecting victims, including universities in North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia.
The statement described the suspects as “members of transnational criminal organizations, which originated in Nigeria but have spread throughout the world.”
The US government said the three suspects were arrested and detained in the UK by the UK police in April 2020, and an order for their extradition to the US was granted in September 2021.
The suspects were said to have filed an appeal challenging the judgment, but a UK high court denied the suspects’ plea to overturn the extradition ruling on July 12, 2022, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) said, in the statement.
According to the statement, the DoJ’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in securing the arrest and extradition of all three defendants.
It added that FBI agents from several divisions across the country took part in the investigation and the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency, Metropolitan Police Service, City of London Police and Crown Prosecution Service also provided substantial assistance.
The US government filed several criminal charges against the trio in connection with their alleged criminal acts in three US states the eastern district of Virginia, the southern district of Texas, and the western district of North Carolina.
In the indictment unsealed before the Charlotte federal court, North Carolina, Messrs Adeagbo and Echeazu were accused of conducting the crimes between 30 August, 2016 and 12 January, 2017.
According to the charge, the US government accused the two Nigerians of conspiring to defraud a US university of more than $1.9 million. It added that they allegedly registered a domain name similar to that of a legitimate construction company where money was wired to a bank account controlled by an individual working under the direction of the defendants.
Mr Adeagbo, a Nigerian citizen and UK resident, is also charged in the Southern District of Texas with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud to steal over $3 million in an indictment which was unsealed on 3 August 2022, before he was extradited to the United States.
While Mr Egbinola, 42, is charged with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy to commit money laundering before the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
According to the indictment, Mr Egbinola is said to have committed the offence between 26 September, 2018 and 26 December, 2018. He is alleged to have defrauded is alleged to have conspired with others to defraud an undisclosed Virginia-based university.
The US authorities said Mr Egbinola and co-conspirators deceived the university into transferring $469,819.49 to a bank account controlled by Egbinola and co-conspirators.
”To execute the scheme, the defendants allegedly registered a domain name similar to that of the legitimate construction company in charge of the University’s project and created an email address that closely resembled that of an employee of the construction company. Using the fake email address, the co-conspirators allegedly deceived and directed the University to wire a payment of more than $1.9 million to a bank account controlled by an individual working under the direction of the defendants. Upon receiving the payment, the co-conspirators allegedly laundered the stolen proceeds through a series of financial transactions designed to conceal the fraud,” the statement reads.
Accused persons face 20 years in prison
According to the statement, if found guilty of the charge, the defendants face up to 20 years in prison.
”The wire fraud conspiracy charge and the money laundering conspiracy charge each carry a maximum statutory sentence of 20 years in prison. The aggravated identity theft charge carries a mandatory two-year prison sentence consecutive to any other term imposed.
According to the US government, the charges in the indictment are only accusations, and the defendants are deemed innocent until proven guilty.