NEW YORK (Reuters) – A Nigerian man was sentenced to three years and five months in prison by a U.S. judge on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to taking part in email scams to defraud thousands of victims around the world of millions of dollars, U.S. prosecutors said.
David Chukwuneke Adindu, 30, was sentenced U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty in Manhattan, according to an announcement from Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim in Manhattan.
Prosecutors said in a court filing Tuesday that Adindu tricked victims into wiring more than $25 million into bank accounts he opened in China, where they said the funds would be difficult for victims in the United States to recover.
Gary Conroy, a lawyer for Adindu, said Adindu’s role consisted mostly of setting up bank accounts in China and Hong Kong. He noted that the sentence was substantially less than the 97 to 121 months called for by federal guidelines.
“I think the judge accurately assessed his relatively minor role in this conspiracy,” Conroy said.
Adindu defrauded his victims by impersonating executives or vendors of companies, prosecutors said, directing employees of those companies to make large wire transfers. Such scams are known as “business email compromise.”
Prosecutors said in Tuesday’s court submission that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has found that business email compromise scammers often use Chinese bank accounts.
Adindu was arrested at a Houston airport last year. Prosecutors said in an indictment that Adindu, who during the period in question resided in both Guangzhou, China, and Lagos, Nigeria, worked with others to carry out business email compromise scams from 2014 to 2016.
Prosecutors said the scammers’ targets included an unnamed New York investment firm, where an employee received an email claiming in June 2015 to be from an investment adviser at another firm asking for a $25,200 wire transfer.
The employee later learned the email was not actually sent by that adviser and as a result did not comply with a second wire transfer request for $75,100, according to the indictment.
Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Bill Trott