International Fraudster Obinwanne Okeke Sentenced to 10 Years In Jail Over $11m Fraud Schem
Nigerian businessman and international fraudster, Obinwanne Okeke, better known as Invictus, who was once listed on the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30, was on Tuesday sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a computer-based intrusion fraud scheme that caused approximately $11 million in known losses to his victims.
On August 6 2019, Okeke was arrested by FBI agents at the Dulles International Airport while about to leave the United States. The warrant for his arrest had been issued a day earlier. Investigations leading up to his arrest had been initiated 13 months earlier. On August 6 2019, following his arrest, Okeke was charged with two counts of computer fraud and wire fraud. On August 7, he pled not guilty to the charges.
On August 22 2019, the Department of Justice, Central District of California released a statement in which eighty other Nigerians were connected to a syndicate that had ties to Okeke.
Many more arrests were made both in Nigeria and in the United States. The arrests led to conversations about Nigeria’s international image, tribal stereotypes, reputation laundering and the fate of upcoming young Nigerian entrepreneurs both in Nigeria and in the diaspora.
On October 9th, 2019, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria ordered the temporary forfeiture of N280M (approximately $800,000) found in his personal accounts to the Federal Government of Nigeria for fear of its ‘dissipation by his cronies’ pending the outcome of his trial.
On June 18, 2020, the Department of Justice released a statement stating that Okeke had pled guilty to the charges against him. In the Statement of Facts submitted to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by his attorneys, Okeke stated that his participation in the events for which he was charged was “undertaken knowingly, intentionally and unlawfully and not as a result of an accident, mistake or other innocent reason.” In his plea agreement, he also waived his right to appeal and agreed to forfeit “all interests in any fraud-related assets.” He faces a maximum of twenty years in prison.
The defendant, who had investments in oil and gas, agriculture, private equity, alternative energy, telecom and real estate, had operated his holdings under the ‘Invictus Group’ and had a presence in three countries including Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia.
The businessman, who was described as an inspiration to many Nigerian youths before he was exposed, is believed to have defrauded American citizens through fraudulent wire transfer instructions in a massive, coordinated, business email compromise scheme.
“Through subterfuge and impersonation, Obinwanne Okeke engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
“Today’s sentence further demonstrates EDVA’s and FBI’s worldwide reach in vigorously pursuing justice on behalf of American victims and others and holding international cybercriminals accountable, no matter where they commit their crimes.”
According to court documents, Obinwanne Okeke, 33, operated a group of companies known as the Invictus Group based in Nigeria and elsewhere. From approximately 2015 to 2019, Okeke and others engaged in a conspiracy to conduct various computer-based frauds.
The conspirators obtained and compiled the credentials of hundreds of victims, including victims in the Eastern District of Virginia.
As part of the scheme, Obinwanne Okeke and other conspirators engaged in an email compromise scheme targeting Unatrac Holding Limited, the export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industrial and farm equipment.
In April 2018, a Unatrac executive fell prey to a phishing email that allowed conspirators to capture login credentials. The conspirators sent fraudulent wire transfer requests and attached fake invoices.
Okeke participated in the effort to victimize Unatrac through fraudulent wire transfers totaling nearly $11 million, which was transferred overseas. Additionally, Okeke engaged in other forms of cyberfraud, including sending phishing emails to capture email credentials, creating fraudulent web pages, and causing other losses to numerous victims.
“The FBI will not allow cyber criminals free reign in the digital world to prey on U.S. companies,” said Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office.
“This sentencing demonstrates the FBI’s commitment to working with our partners at the Department of Justice and our foreign counterparts to locate cyber criminals across the globe and bring them to the United States to be held accountable.”
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by Chief U.S. District Judge Rebecca Beach Smith.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Samuels prosecuted the case.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 4:19-cr-84.