Four United States of America-based Nigerians, who are members of a seven-man cybercrime syndicate, have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and other crimes.
According to a statement on the website of the US Justice Department, Abraham Yusuff, a Nigerian residing in Round Rock, Texas, recruited three US-based Nigerians to defraud the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) of $111 million using stolen identities.
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From 2018 to 2021, Meghan Inyang, Dillon Anozie and Babajide Ogunbanjo, the three Nigerians Yusuff recruited, engaged in a conspiracy to claim fraudulent tax refunds by using the stolen identities of accountants and taxpayers. During the period, they filed at least 371 false tax returns claiming over $111 million in refunds from the IRS.
Non-Nigerian members of the syndicate recruited by Yusuff for the crime are Christopher Eduardo, Christian Mathurin and Aydin Mammadov.
After posing as authorised agents of multiple taxpayers, the syndicate members allegedly directed the IRS to change the addresses on the taxpayers’ files and send them their tax information, including account transcripts and wage records.
The syndicate then used the information to electronically file tax returns, claiming fraudulent refunds. The members also directed the IRS to split the refunds among several prepaid debit cards. In the end, the IRS released the funds to the fraudsters.
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The moment the refunds were deposited onto their prepaid debit cards, Yusuff and other syndicate members laundered the funds by purchasing, among other things, money orders from local stores in amounts low enough to avoid reporting thresholds. They also used the prepaid debit cards and money orders to purchase designer clothing, home renovation materials and used cars at auctioned prices.
If convicted, members of the syndicate face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the mail and wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit the said fraud. They are also likely to bag 20 years in prison for money laundering, 10 years for access device fraud, and a mandatory sentence of two years for aggravated identity theft.
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The defendants also face monetary penalties, restitution, forfeiture and a supervised period upon their release from prison.
The indictment was first read to the syndicate members on March 7 by a federal grand jury in Austin, Texas.
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