- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Obinwanne Okeke, a Nigerian businessman once featured in a Forbes “30 under 30” list, was sentenced by a U.S. judge to 10 years in federal prison Tuesday for his role in a computer fraud scheme.

Okeke, 33, had been arrested in Virginia in 2019 after the FBI alleged that he was involved in scamming Unatrac Holding Limited, the export sales office for heavy machinery company Caterpillar.

Through a phishing scheme targeting Unatrac‘s chief financial officer, Okeke is believed to have helped cost the company nearly $11 million dollars in losses, the U.S. government said in court.

Unatrac told investigators that its CFO received an email in April 2018 which contained a link for a website made to resemble the email login portal the company uses, the FBI explained previously.

Mistaking the “spoofed” site for the actual login page, Unatrac said its CFO entered his email credentials and was duped into disclosing his password to the person running the site, the FBI said.

Logs showed the intruder accessed the CFO’s email account at least 464 times during a two-week span afterward, mostly from an internet address in Nigeria, the FBI said in charging documents.

“With full access to the account, the intruder sent fraudulent wire transfer requests from the CFO’s email account to members of Unatrac‘s internal financial team,” the FBI explained previously.

Unatrac finance staff, believing the wire transfer requests were real, processed approximately 15 fraudulent payments totaling close to $11 million largely never recovered, the FBI said before.

Investigators eventually linked the intruder to an email address which led them to Okeke, who was accordingly arrested at Dulles International Airport before he could board a flight leaving the U.S.

Okeke ultimately agreed in June to plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He faced a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and received just half that.

Raj Parekh, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said in a statement that Okeke used “subterfuge and impersonation” to cause monetary losses he described as “staggering.”

“The FBI will not allow cybercriminals free rein in the digital world to prey on U.S. companies,” added Brian Dugan, the special agent in charge at the FBI field office in Norfolk, Virginia.

Two years before his arrest, Okeke, then 28, was lauded by Forbes Africa as the founder of Invictus Group, which the magazine described as encompassing several firms spanning multiple industries.

“Invictus is in construction, agriculture, oil and gas, telecoms and real estate. He has 28 permanent and 100 part-time employees across nine companies,” Forbes reported at the time.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide