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FBI says Nigerian scammer converted stolen funds into Bitcoin via the Gemini crypto exchange

The FBI filed charges of wire fraud conspiracy against a Nigerian national engaged in business email compromise schemes targeting U.S. firms.

Image by MichaelWuensch from Pixabay

Tue, 14 Jul 2020, 04:33 am UTC

The FBI has filed charges against a Nigerian scammer who defrauded American companies tens of millions of dollars in a BEC scheme. The suspect, who has been extradited from Dubai to the United States along with one companion, reportedly transferred the stolen funds by converting them into Bitcoin (BTC) via the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange.

The two Nigerians extradited from Dubai are Olalekan Jacob Ponle, who is also known as “Mr. Woodbery” and “Mark Kain,” and Ramon Olorunwa Abbas, who is also known as “Ray Hushpuppi” and “Hush,” according to Cointelegraph. However, the FBI’s complaint only focused on Ponle’s activities and how he used cryptocurrency (BTC) to transfer the stolen money.

Based on the FBI’s complaint, Ponce and his accomplices used a scheme called business email compromise (BEC). They would somehow gain access to a company’s legitimate business email account and then fool its employees by instructing them to transfer some of the business’ funds to their account.

Through his BEC operations, Ponle was able to defraud American firms tens of millions of dollars. The FBI also added that he converted around $6.5 million of the stolen money into 1,500 BTC.

“Preliminary blockchain analysis indicates that PONLE received at least 1,494.71506296 bitcoin related to these BEC schemes, valued at approximately $6,599,499.98 at the time he received the proceeds,” the FBI’s filing reads. Ponle did not seem to concerned amount hiding the money trail on the Bitcoin network as he has been using the same crypto wallet address since 2014.

The FBI was finally able to infiltrate Ponle’s inner circle in July 2019. One agent started communicating with Ponle using a handle that was previously used by the Nigerian’s associate.

In the past, Gemini was the crypto exchange of choice for “converting stolen fiat into Bitcoin,” according to Cointelegraph. But for cashing out, Huobi and LocalBitcoins were preferred for cashing out BTC back into fiat. One possible reason for this preference is that both exchanges were criticized in the past for having lax KYC policy.

Ponle and Abbas are known for leading luxurious lifestyles based on their Instagram posts. “You are worth the pleasures of your labor,” Ponle said in a recent post. “Stop letting people make you feel guilty for the wealth you’ve acquired, especially when you paid in blood, sweat and tears, to have the things that are deemed ‘un-purchase-able.’”

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