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Nigerian cyber fraudster gets 10 years in US

Nigerian entrepreneur Obinwanne Okeke, who once made it on Forbes Africa’s '30 under 30 list, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a computer-based intrusion fraud scheme resulting in US$11-million in known losses to his victims.

The sentencing by Chief US District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith was the culmination of a 13-month-long investigation by the US government’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that ended the perception of Okeke, popularly known as Invictus Obi, as a renowned businessman with investments in oil and gas, agriculture, private equity, alternative energy, telecommunications and real estate.

Raj Parekh, Acting US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said Obinwanne Okeke engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme.

“Today’s sentence further demonstrates EDVA’s and FBI’s worldwide reach in vigorously pursuing justice on behalf of American victims and others and holding international cybercriminals accountable, no matter where they commit their crimes,” Parekh said.

According to court documents, between 2015 and 2019, Okeke and his co-conspirators obtained and compiled the credentials of hundreds of victims, including those from the Eastern District of Virginia.

Notably, Okeke was found to be involved in an email compromise scheme targeting British company Unatrac Holding Limited, the export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment.

A statement released by the US Department of Justice disclosed that in April 2018, a Unatrac executive fell prey to a phishing email that allowed conspirators to capture login credentials.

An excerpt from the statement reads: “The conspirators sent fraudulent wire transfer requests and attached fake invoices.”

In August 2019 Okeke was arrested and charged with two counts of computer fraud and wire fraud. The following day, he appeared before in the District Court of Eastern District of Virginia and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Subsequently a Federal High Court Nigeria ordered the temporary forfeiture to the Nigerian government of US$800,000 that was found in Okeke’s personal and corporate accounts.

In June 2020, following his arrest on a visit to the US, Okeke pleaded guilty to the charges.

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