Following on the success of Operation Wire Wire and Operation reWired, the FBI conducted another significant, coordinated effort to disrupt Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes that intercept and steal wire transfers sent by businesses and individuals. The U.S. Department of Justice and international law enforcement partners carried out Operation Eagle Sweep over a three-month period and arrested 65 suspects in the United States and overseas, including 12 in Nigeria, eight in South Africa, two in Canada, and one in Cambodia. In parallel with Operation Eagle Sweep, Australia, Japan, and Nigeria conducted local operations targeting BEC actors.
BEC is a sophisticated scam that often targets employees of businesses that make payments through wire transfers. These skilled scammers usually gain access to a company’s email accounts or spoof their email addresses to send legitimate sounding and well-timed requests for wire transfers. The bank accounts provided for the transfers, however, are controlled by the criminals. The same criminal organizations that carry out BEC also exploit individuals, often real estate purchasers and the elderly.
These financially devastating schemes harm not only victims but also affect the global economy. According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), victims of BEC and a similar scheme called email account compromise reported nearly $2.4 billion in losses in 2021.
“The FBI works tirelessly with our domestic and international partners to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises, to stop the victimization of U.S. citizens and businesses, and to impose real consequences on cybercriminals using our unique authorities and enduring partnerships,” said Assistant Director Bryan Vorndran of the FBI’s Cyber Division. “Operation Eagle Sweep’s success is directly attributed to our global reach and worldwide partnerships. Our message to criminals involved in these BEC schemes will remain clear: We will pursue you no matter where you may be located. The public we serve deserves nothing less.”
Starting in September 2021, Operation Eagle Sweep targeted BEC scammers believed responsible for targeting over 500 U.S. victims and for causing losses exceeding $51 million.
Among those apprehended during the operation were:
- Oluwasegun Baiyewu, 36, of Houston, Texas, and Leo Omorogieva Eghaghe, 39, of Lagos, Nigeria, were arrested by the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, as part of a larger investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Puerto Rico and Houston. The charges relate to the victimization of a Puerto Rico-based renewable energy supplier. The investigation revealed that the individuals arrested were involved in an international money laundering conspiracy in which an extensive, organized network of money mules moved at least $4.5 million dollars in fraud funds obtained from BEC and other fraud schemes from the United States to Nigeria.
- Ashley Crespo, 27; David Alvarado, 21; Wendy Elizabeth Ramos Lopez, 29; Dayana Zaila Ramos, 32; Alvaro Umanzor, 23; Luis Lopez, 39; Jerome Crawford, 25; and Jamal Moore, 25, all of Houston, Texas, were indicted on charges of laundering almost $900,000 of proceeds from a BEC scam. This group, and several others, are believed to have laundered almost $4.5 million over a period of two years, with the laundered funds consisting of payments they received from victim businesses all over the world. The investigation was conducted by the FBI’s Houston field office, the Houston Police Department, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
- Bright Osaghni, 41, and Osatohanmwen Oriakhi, 41, both of Toronto, Canada, were arrested by the Toronto Police Service in connection with a BEC scam and check fraud scheme that impacted hundreds of victims in the United States and Canada, with attempted losses in excess of $16 million. The investigation was led by the FBI’s Los Angeles field office with the assistance of the Toronto Police Service.
Operation Eagle Sweep, which was funded and coordinated by the FBI, serves as a model for international cooperation against specific threats that endanger the financial well-being of each member country’s residents.
The cases were investigated by the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service. U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Districts of Central California, Northern New York, Puerto Rico, Southern Texas, and the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch have investigations ongoing, some of which have resulted in arrests in Nigeria. The Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Office of International Affairs of the Criminal Division provided assistance. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office is handling state prosecutions.
Additionally, the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, South African Police Service, Toronto Police Service, Cambodian National Police, Australian Federal Police, New South Wales Police Force, Victoria Police, Tasmania Police, Queensland Police, Northern Territory Police, South Australia Police, Western Australia Police, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, Australian Cyber Security Centre, Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre, National Police Agency of Japan, the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance, and the Microsoft Corporation’s Digital Crimes Unit provided valuable assistance.