Obinwanne Okeke is to remain in prison custody till February 2020 when his trial will continue. This was the order of a US Federal Judge Lawrence Leonard, in Norfolk, Virginia the case of $11 million USD wire fraud against Okeke popularly known as “InvictusObi” was brought before him. After Okeke pleaded NOT guilty to the charges in his first hearing by a trial judge on Monday 16th September, 2019, Justice Leonard admitted that the case was very complex and adjourned hearing to February 2020 while sending the Nigerian to prison custody till the next hearing date. Meanwhile some of his key accomplice to the crime are yet to be apprehended and are said to be working behind the scene to scuttle the prosecution evidence and cover their track.
The FBI agent said the investigations that nailed him began in July 2018 after Unatrac Holding Limited, an export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industry and farm equipment, in the United Kingdom was defrauded of $11 million through a phishing scheme.
The chief finance officer of Unatrac had received an email containing from an intruder on April 1, 2018. The CFO opened the link and was redirected to a phishing website designed to look like a genuine Office365 logon page. The credential he entered on the page were immediately collected by the “unknown intruder” whose IP address was traced to Nigeria.
The FBI said the intruder accessed the CFO’s email account 464 times between April 6 and April 20, 2018.
The credentials were used to remotely login into the CFO’s account, monitor his correspondences and intercepted legitimate emails from employees on the company’s financial team. The emails were marked as read and moved to another folder outside the CFO’s inbox.
Unatrac financial team members, deceived by the genuine-looking emails initiated by the intruder, processed 15 fraudulent payments between April 11 and April 19, 2018.
“For instance, the finance staff received and processed three invoices to Pak Fei Limited: one for $278, 270.66, one for $898, 461.17 and one for $1, 957, 100,” Ward said in the affidavit.
“In total, nearly $11, 000, 000 was sent, all of which went to overseas accounts.”
The funds were too late to retrieve when Unatrac realised that it was a victim of fraud. It later reported the crime to the FBI in June 2018.
Obinwanne started featuring in the fraud scheme after the intruder downloaded a folder from Unatrac CFO’s OneDrive folder and sent it to email@example.com, the email the FBI said is owned by the Invictus Group founder.
Apart from Unatrac, Ward said the official records collected from Google in November 2018 showed that firstname.lastname@example.org was “substantially involved” in illegal activities including trafficking in stolen password and identities, computer intrusion, conspiracies to commit to obtain money through fraudulent wire transfers.
Ward said email@example.com defrauded an American company Red Wing Shoe Company of $108, 470.55.
About 77 other Nigerians have been listed in largely unconnected fraud busts by American authorities since Okeke’s arrest.
Many of those cases were also traced to business email compromise, a process of targeting unwary business executives now commonly deployed across intricate networks of cybercriminals.
He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, as well as the possibility of forfeiting any ill-gotten acquisitions traced to him.
Okeke was named on the Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 For 2016 and was featured on the magazine’s June 2016 cover. A year later, CNBCA named Okeke as a finalist for Young Business Leader of the Year (West Africa).
He was featured regularly in Nigerian and international media. Okeke also earned high praises from Nigerian politicians.
His Invictus Group claims to have investments in oil and gas, construction, energy solutions, technology and agriculture.