The Justice Department has charged Americans and a Nigerian under several sections of the law in their alleged role in a phishing scheme that targets college, bank and other business employees between May 2013 and June 2014.
The indictment filed in U.S. court in New Mexico on Tuesday defines the defendants as a citizen of Nigeria, Otuokere V. (aka Hulac Yun and Charles Quartz), as well as Americans Samantha A. and Ardari B., who were at one time trained by the University of New Mexico and Southern Illinois University, respectively.
The DOJ claims the trio were also assisted by three other co-defendants, including one UNM student and two Chinese residents who acted as money mules. At least some of the unnamed mules were “unwitting” accomplices, the report said.
The indictment accuses the three named defendants of sending phishing emails to at least 15 universities and three health systems, defrauding at least 50 employees by clicking on links that directed them to fraudulent web pages with fake screens to log in. Thinking they legally register in employee accounts, the targets entered their user names and passwords for payroll. The defendants then allegedly used the authority to access the victims ‘accounts and diverted their electronic payments to various monies that eventually sent the funds to Nigeria.
Prosecutors charged Almodovar and Bias with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and a banking offence, one count of conspiracy to commit computer fraud and identity theft, two counts of wire message fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.