Federal authorities in United State have announced the arrest of 281 people — the bulk in Nigeria and the U.S. in an internationally coordinated law enforcement operation aimed at disrupting a multibillion-dollar internet scam.
Operation reWired, a coordinated law enforcement effort by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and the U.S. Department of State, was conducted over a four-month period, resulting in 281 arrests in the United States and overseas, including 167 in Nigeria, 18 in Turkey and 15 in Ghana. Arrests were also made in France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the United Kingdom (UK). The operation also resulted in the seizure of nearly $3.7 million.
BEC, also known as “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” is a sophisticated scam often targeting employees with access to company finances and businesses working with foreign suppliers and/or businesses that regularly perform wire transfer payments.
“In this latest four-month operation, we have arrested 74 people in the United States and 207 others have been arrested overseas for alleged financial fraud. The coordinated efforts with our domestic and international law enforcement partners around the world has made these most recent actions more successful. I want to thank the FBI, more than two dozen U.S. Attorney’s Offices, U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, IRS Criminal Investigation, U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, our partners in Nigeria, Ghana, Turkey, France, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Malaysia, and the UK, and our state and local law enforcement partners for all of their hard work to combat these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. Anyone who engages in deceptive practices like this should know they will not go undetected and will be held accountable.”
“This investigation is just another example of how effective law enforcement agencies can be when they join forces. By working together, we can keep our communities and our vulnerable populations safe from financial exploitation. The U.S. Postal Inspection Service is proud to be at the forefront of the fight against fraud and Postal Inspectors will continue to adapt to the ever-changing landscape to stop the scammers and protect our customers.” said Chief Postal Inspector Gary Barksdale.
“In unraveling this complex, nationwide identity theft and tax fraud scheme, we discovered that the conspirators stole more than 250,000 identities and filed more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns, attempting to receive more than $91 million in refunds,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation. “We will continue to work with our international, federal and state partners to pursue all those responsible for perpetrating this fraud, preying on innocent victims and attempting to cheat the U.S. out of millions of dollars.”
Operation reWired was funded and coordinated by the FBI and the Justice Department’s International Organized Crime Intelligence and Operations Center (IOC-2) and follows “Operation Wire Wire,” the first coordinated enforcement action targeting hundreds of BEC scammers. That effort, announced in June 2018, resulted in the arrest of 74 individuals, the seizure of nearly $2.4 million, and the disruption and recovery of approximately $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.