A gang of fraudsters have been convicted for their parts in the theft of millions of pounds from businesses and individuals in the UK and abroad.
The following people were convicted for their roles in a large-scale “diversion fraud” scam using hacking software, following a six-month trial at Blackfriars Crown Court:
- Bonaventure Sunday Chukwuka, 41 (21.08.77) of Roding Gardens, Loughton was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property (money laundering). He was also found guilty of possession of a prohibited item (a phone) in prison.
- Emmanuel Chike Chukwuka (brother), 27 (11.12.91) of Roding Gardens, Loughton was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to money launder.
- Christian Chukwuka (brother), 39 (24.12.79) of Latchetts Shaw, Basildon, Essex was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property
- Nadeem Abbasi, 48 (20.04.70) of St Michaels Avenue, Wembley pleaded guilty to conspiracy to convert/conceal criminal property.
- Mansoor Zaman, 27 (31.03.91) of no fixed abode was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property.
- Andrew Chike Chukwu, 35 (19.09.83) of River Road, Buckhurst Hill was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property
- Mohammed Rahman, 31 (25.12.87) of Garnies Close, Peckham was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal/transfer criminal property.
- Queen Chukwuka, 32 (01.10.86) of Roding Gardens, Loughton was found guilty of acquiring/possessing criminal property.
- Grace Plange Chukwu, 39 (20.02.80) of River Road, Buckhurst Hill was found guilty of acquiring/possessing criminal property.
- Ionut Relu Muresan, 34 (09.09.84) of Long Deacon Road, E4 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to money launder.
- Gheorghe Alexandru Scurtu, 20 (11.01.99) of Ladysmith Road E16 pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to money launder.
They will be sentenced at the same court on a date to be confirmed.
The court heard during the trial that Bonaventure Chukwuka led an organised criminal gang that targeted businesses and individuals by hacking into their email accounts and stealing large sums of money.
Officers from the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad led the investigation. Detectives identified a total of 228 separate frauds, committed from 2014 to 2018 and totalling £10,112,312.54.
A total of 69 victims provided evidence during the trial. Many of them have been unable to recover their losses.
Several victims were traced with the help of the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau whose Action Fraud service allows both domestic and overseas victims to report fraud online.
The gang used computer malware to intercept and steal the log-in details of email accounts belonging to businesses and private individuals worldwide, with the intent of identifying high-value financial transactions.
They then intercepted emails about these transactions and sent spoof emails, duping the victims into paying the funds into alternative UK-based ‘mule’ bank accounts controlled by the fraudsters, instead of the intended recipient.
A total of 165 mule accounts, opened with fake identification documents or bought from unscrupulous account holders, were identified by detectives.
They were used to receive the proceeds of the diversion fraud, where the money was quickly transferred onto other accounts, some of which were untraceable.
The fraudsters also used the funds from mule accounts to buy and export thousands of pounds of baby milk to Nigeria, to launder the money.
One of the fraud victims was a small construction company with a small team of employees based in the south west of England. It was defrauded out of nearly £13,000 by the group in 2017 and had to close as a result.
Bonaventure, Emmanuel and Christian Chukwuka were arrested on 26 January 2018 on suspicion of fraud. They were charged the following day.
Abassi established a sham company and opened business bank accounts, one of which received £1.9m on behalf of the wider gang. Abassi was arrested at Heathrow airport on 14 February 2018. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to launder money on 2 November 2018.
Zaman and Rahman sourced mule accounts. Zaman was arrested at Gatwick Airport on 4 April 2018. Rahman was arrested on 11 April.
Following the arrest of the Chukwuka brothers, Andrew Chike Chuwku was identified as a significant associate. He was arrested on 11 April 2018.
Queen Chukwuka and Grace Chukwu - the wives of Bonaventure and Andrew - received funds into their own personal bank accounts.
Officers will now begin confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act to try and recover the money stolen.
Detective Constable Chris Collins, of the Met's Falcon Fraud Squad, said: “This has been an exceptionally long trial and the convictions mark the end of a complex, protracted investigation carried out by the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad.
“The evidence amassed by detectives and presented during the trial was comprehensive and pointed towards a large-scale, planned fraud operation where successful businesses and wealthy individuals were targeted and deceived by a convincing fraud which involved payments arranged between two parties being successfully diverted by this gang.
“I would like to thank the victims in this case for giving evidence. Their accounts undoubtedly helped the jury arrive at their guilty verdicts. They have shown themselves to be unscrupulous fraudsters who have not given a second thought to the misery their actions have inflicted.
“I hope this conviction sends a strong message to online fraudsters: even though you think you are committing fraud at your keyboard in privacy, we have the ways and means of tracing you and we will seek to bring you to justice.
“We would advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to, by contacting the intended recipient and taking precautions to ensure the money is going to the right place.”
For more information about how you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim of fraud or cyber crime, visit www.met.police.uk/advice/advice-and-information/fa/fraud/
You can also find out more about online fraud and report offences via Action Fraud – call 0300 123 2040, or visit www.actionfraud.police.uk
= Mohammad Taleb (who also went by the name Joeshep De Souza), 30 (29.12.88) of Garnies Close, Peckham was found not guilty of conspiracy to money launder, and entering into a money laundering arrangement (contrary to section 328 of the Proceeds of Crime Act).