By Kunle Adedoyin
Six Nigerian citizens resident in the United Kingdom have been jailed for their roles in the theft of millions of pounds from businesses and individuals in the UK and abroad.
The Nigerians, related by blood, Bonaventure Chukwuka, 41; Emmanuel Chukwuka, 27; Christian Chukwuka, 39; Andrew Chukwu, 35; Queen Chukwuka, 32; and Grace Chukwuka, 39, were among ten persons convicted between March 26 and 28, for their roles in a large-scale “diversion fraud” scam using hacking software.
The Metropolitan Police announced that the ten accused persons were sentenced for a total of more than 43 years at Blackfriars Crown Court on May 2, following a six-month trial.
Officers from the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad began investigations into the matter after receiving referrals from action fraud.
Bonaventure was said to have led the fraud gang that targeted businesses and individuals by hacking into their email accounts, and stealing large sums of money.
The gang used computer malware to intercept and steal the log-in details of email accounts belonging to businesses and private individuals worldwide, with the intent of identifying high-value financial transactions.
Detectives identified a total of 228 separate frauds committed by the same network between 2014 to 2018, and totalling £10,112,312.54.
Bonaventure was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, money laundering and possession of a prohibited item in prison. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Andrew was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. He was jailed for 10 years.
Emmanuel was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison.
Christian was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and conspiracy to conceal criminal property. He sentenced to five years and nine months’ imprisonment.
Queen and Grace were found guilty of acquiring criminal property. While Queen was sentenced to a community order, Grace got conditional discharge.
“This gang of fraudsters were unscrupulous, organised and prolific, and over a period of four years stole millions of pounds from unsuspecting businesses and individuals, and lived an extremely comfortable life with the profits,” said Chris Collins of the Falcon Fraud Squad.
“The frauds were brazen, and this gang clearly thought they could continue with their criminal lifestyle without detection. However, arrests followed what was a complex investigation carried out diligently by the Met’s Falcon Fraud Squad, with hundreds of fraud reports being reviewed by detectives trawling through financial records.
“The evidence amassed by detectives and presented during the trial pointed towards a large-scale, planned fraud operation which involved payments arranged between two parties being successfully intercepted and diverted by this gang, into “mule” accounts set up for the purpose of receiving stolen funds.
“I hope this conviction sends a strong message to online fraudsters: we have the ways and means of tracing you and we will seek to bring you to justice.
“We would advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to, by contacting the intended recipient and taking precautions to ensure the money is going to the right place.”