Nigerian wanted for alleged fraud arrested while trying to flee US
A Nigerian man Emmanuel Mong wanted for fraud has been arrested while trying to catch a flight to Nigeria has been arrested in Washington, Stamford Advocate reported on Wednesday.
Mong has been extradited to Stamford where he will be charged for illegally intercepting a $30,000 wire transfer from a privately held pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma.
The 24-year-old who lived in Savannah, Georgia, before his arrest was trying to catch an Emirates Airlines flight to Nigeria on December 16 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport when he was detained by the United States Customs and Border Protection officers.
Sean Coughlin, a Stamford police financial crimes investigator, said Purdue Pharma was a victim of what is known as a “man-in-the-email scam,” wherein a corporation, usually with business connections to Africa or Asia, have their email systems hacked by a computer virus or some other malware.
In Mong’s arrest affidavit, Coughlin explained that once fraudsters hack inside an email system, the fraudsters will monitor company email traffic, learning payment behaviours and relevant executives’ names.
He said they will eventually direct someone within the company to send a normal accounts-payable wire to an account controlled by the fraudsters.
That is exactly what happened in Mong’s case, Coughlin said.
“Back in April 2017, Purdue Pharma sent a payment of $30,000 for production materials to a Wells Fargo bank account,” the affidavit said.
But a month later, the company owed the money said it never got the wire.
“Police investigated and discovered the account that the money was sent to was located in Savannah, Georgia,” the affidavit read.
“An internal Purdue Pharma investigation found that the email requesting the money, ostensibly sent by the outside company, could be traced to a Kuwaiti address at the web housing website godaddy.com, and therefore never came from the company actually doing business with Purdue Pharma.
“Results of a search warrant served on Wells Fargo revealed that the account was opened about a month before the wire transfer was made and was closed in May 2017, the same month Purdue Pharma became aware of the theft.”
Mong’s search warrant showed the account was registered to Mong. The account also showed a separate incoming wire transfer of $59,000, likely from an additional victim.
The police said Mong had $3,510 in cash on him when he was picked up at the Seattle airport.
Stamford police first issued a warrant for Mong’s arrest in 2017, charging him with first-degree larceny, conspiracy to commit first-degree computer crime and conspiracy to commit criminal impersonation, with a court-ordered appearance bond of $250,000.
But he protested he never lived in Georgia and claimed that he is not the person wanted in the warrant.
“Mr. Mong is looking forward to coming to Stamford and having his day in court and presenting evidence of his innocence,” his Stamford criminal defense attorney, Allan Friedman, said.
“We will resolve this matter in court.”
Police has not stated when Mong will be extradited to Stamford to answer for the charges.