NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Nigerian man was sentenced to three years and five months in prison by a U.S. judge on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to taking part in email scams to defraud thousands of victims around the world of millions of dollars, U.S. prosecutors said.
David Chukwuneke Adindu, 30, was sentenced U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan, according to an announcement from Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday that Adindu tricked victims into wiring more than $25 million into bank accounts he opened in China, where they said the funds would be difficult for victims in the United States to recover. Adindu’s lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.
Adindu defrauded his victims by impersonating executives or vendors of companies, prosecutors said, directing employees of those companies to make large wire transfers. Such scams are known as “business email compromise.”
Prosecutors said in Tuesday’s court submission that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has found that business email compromise scammers often use Chinese bank accounts.
Adindu was arrested at a Houston airport last year. Prosecutors said in an indictment that Adindu, who during the period in question resided in both Guangzhou, China and Lagos, Nigeria, worked with others to carry out business email compromise scams from 2014 to 2016.
Prosecutors said the scammers’ targets included an unnamed New York investment firm, where an employee received an email claiming in June 2015 to be from an investment adviser at another firm asking for a $25,200 wire transfer.
The employee later learned the email was not actually sent by that adviser and as a result did not comply with a second wire transfer request for $75,100, according to the indictment.
The FBI has identified business email compromise scams as a growing threat. In February, the agency said that the amount of losses identified as a result of business email compromise scams had grown by 1,300 percent since January 2015 and totaled more than $3 billion.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman