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Feds arrest 74 in global email scam crackdown

Authorities announced 74 arrests in connection to an international business e-mail compromise scheme designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals

By Police1 Staff

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities have announced a major coordinated law enforcement effort to disrupt international business e-mail compromise schemes.

Authorities, including the FBI and Department of Justice, announced on Monday that arrests have been made in connection to business e-mail compromise schemes designed to intercept and hijack wire transfers from businesses and individuals. Operation WireWire, which also included the Department of Homeland Security, involved a six-month sweep that culminated in over two weeks of intense law enforcement activity, leading to 74 arrest in the U.S. and overseas.

In total, 49 people in the U.S., 29 in Nigeria, and three in Canada, Mauritius and Poland were arrested in connection to the schemes. The operation also led to the seizure of nearly $2.4 million and disruption and recovery of about $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers.

Authorities said a number of cases charged in the operation involved an international criminal organization that defrauded small- to large-sized businesses. Others involved individual victims who transferred high-dollar amounts or sensitive records to the criminals.

BEC, also known as cyber-enabled financial fraud, is a scam that targets employees with access to company finances and tricks them into making wire transfers to bank accounts belonging to criminals. The scam also exploits individuals, usually the elderly or real estate purchasers, by tricking them into transferring money to criminals.

Authorities executed more than 51 domestic actions, including search warrants, asset seizure warrants and money mule warning letters, during Operation WireWire. Authorities also charged 15 alleged money mules, who are used to receive the stolen money and transfer the funds as directed by the fraudsters.

FBI Director Christopher Wray said the latest surge in law enforcement targeting BEC schemes “demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to disrupt and dismantle criminal enterprises that target American citizens and their businesses.”

“We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens. The public we serve deserves nothing less,” Wray said.