Cyber Fraudsters Convicted Of £10 Million Push Payment Fraud

An unscrupulous gang of five online fraudsters have been jailed for ‘payment diversion fraud’ offences worth over £10 million.

The North West London Economic Crime Unit identified a total of 235 separate frauds committed between 2014 and 2019, and totalling £9.2 million.

The gang’s preferred method of attack was to introduce Malware to steal login credentials from businesses and private individuals.

Once the fraudsters had obtained access to the email addresses, they would monitor activity, wait for any correspondence alluding to a potential lucrative financial transaction, before pouncing on their prey.

Once a target was identified, the cyber criminals would intercept the email trail before sending spoof messages and tricking victims into paying funds into UK based ‘mule’ bank accounts controlled by the fraudsters. The money was then funnelled into the Nigerian economy.

Whilst the number of property frauds were not detailed in the report, the police claimed fraudsters were actively claiming to be a buyer’s conveyancing solicitor when conducting the attacks.

A metropolitan police statement suggested ‘victims ranged from high profile individuals and organisations to private individuals who thought that they were paying money to their conveyancing solicitor during a property transaction.’

In actual fact, the organised crime ringleader, Olumuyiwa Ogunduyile, combined sophisticated social engineering and cyber fraud techniques to swindle innocent individuals over such a long period of time.

The trial further suggested that over 100 mule accounts featured in the investigation and often involved legitimate account holders selling their details to the fraudsters who were then able to use actual accounts to successfully complete the scams without detection.

Prior to his arrest in April 2019, Olumuyiwa Ogunduyile attempted to destroy evidence by placing his three mobile phones into a washing machine. However, following the completion of the cycle, cyber security and IT forensics experts were able to retrieve evidence from two of the phones. He was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and seven and a half years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.

Others convicted following the case were accused of working as ‘mule herders.’ Satish Kotinadhuni was responsible for identifying vulnerable or dishonest individuals and convincing them to sell on their accounts to be used in the frauds. He was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and six years for conspiracy to convert criminal property concurrent.

Since the start of the new decade, the Solicitors Regulation Authority has already been sent nine scam alerts intimating that the public had received spoofed emails purporting to have been sent from fraudsters.

The police have advised all individuals to verify the bank details are legitimate prior to a transaction by contacting the intended recipient by communication methods other than email. Sending a nominal fee prior to the full transaction could also help establish if the funds are being sent to a fraudster before all the money is lost.

Detective Constable Chris Collins, of Economic Crime, said:

“I am very pleased with the verdicts. This has been a long trial due to the defendants’ refusal to accept their guilt despite overwhelming evidence.

“A common feature in this case was the use of mule bank accounts. I advise anyone conducting financial business by email to verify the bank account they are sending their money to by contacting the intended recipient by means other than email.

“Furthermore people should be aware that a genuine investment company would not use different private bank accounts in different names in a legitimate transaction.”