A Nigerian citizen identified as Babatunde Martins, residing in Accra, Ghana, has been extradited to Memphis, Tennessee to stand trial for an indictment charging him with wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office made the announcement.
Martins who is 64 years old, was indicted on August 23rd, 2017 by a federal grand jury in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. He was indicted, along with others for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit computer fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Following his extradition, Martins’ initial appearance was made on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Charmiane G. Claxton for the Western District of Tennessee. The indictment alleges that various Africa-based co-conspirators committed, or caused to be committed, a series of intrusions into the servers and email systems of a Memphis-based real estate company in June and July 2016.
Using sophisticated anonymization techniques, including the use of spoofed email addresses and Virtual Private Networks, the co-conspirators identified large financial transactions, initiated fraudulent email correspondence with relevant business parties and then redirected closing funds through a network of U.S.-based money mules to final destinations in Africa.
Commonly referred to as business-email compromise, or BEC, this aspect of the scheme caused hundreds of thousands in loss to companies and individuals in Memphis. In addition to BEC, the defendant is also charged with perpetrating romance scams, fraudulent-check scams, gold-buying scams, advance-fee scams and credit card scams.
The indictment alleges that the proceeds of these criminal activities, both money and goods, were shipped and/or transferred from the United States to locations in Africa through a complex network of both complicit and unwitting individuals that had been recruited through the variousInternet scams. The defendant is specifically alleged to have owned and operated a company called Afri Ocean LTD that he used in furtherance of these crimes.
The defendant, along with his co-conspirators, is believed to have caused millions in loss to victims across the globe. The DOJ warned that an indictment is merely an allegation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme. Two others, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, and Javier Luis Ramos-Alonso, 30, were convicted in March after a seven-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Abegunde received a 78-month sentence and Ramos-Alonso received a 31-month sentence for their roles in thescheme. Several individuals remain at large.