3rd June 2021

Georgia Man Sentenced in BEC Scheme

A man from Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for laundering over $247,000 that he received from business email compromise schemes, the US Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Georgia announced on Tuesday, June 1.

Prosecutors say that Anthony Dwayne King, 39, opened accounts with three different banks under false pretenses — using a fake identity and bogus business information for each account opening — in the two weeks between October 2 and October 17, 2018. King was then said to have called an Oregon homebuyer and, pretending to be her realtor, requested a transfer of $45,000 to an account he owned to facilitate the house closing process. Several days later, another homebuyer located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, received an email with the same request. That homebuyer wired nearly $84,000 to King.

Within a couple of weeks, a Delaware law firm had fallen victim to a similar ruse, with the scammer impersonating a mortgagor and requesting the firm wire payoff funds totaling nearly $70,000 to an account King controlled.

Finally, on February 27, 2019, a company in New Jersey received an email from someone claiming to be its landlord. The company, following instructions, wired just over $50,000 — a portion of which was deposited into King’s personal bank account the next day via a $9,572 check drawn from the business account.

While federal prosecutors indicated that King had accomplices, they declined to specify who, how many, or whether charges are being pursued against those individuals as well.

King pleaded guilty to the money laundering conspiracy and was convicted in December 2020. In addition to serving time in prison, he must make restitution payments totaling a little more than $124,000.

Business email compromise (BEC) schemes like the one King carried out are emerging as a powerful threat for banks and customers. Indeed, JP Morgan’s AFP Payments Fraud and Control Survey found that 76% of organizations reported being targeted by BEC schemes in 2020. Further, the FBI confirmed on May 15, 2021, that its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had logged its sixth millionth complaint about online scams and investment fraud since 2000. It took IC3 seven years to reach its first million complaints and a full 20 years to make it to five million complaints. But it collected its most recent million in a mere 14 months.

This should serve as a clear call to banks for increased vigilance when screening new and current customers. Having a solid understanding of their customers’ identities and transactional behavior is key to minimizing these instances of fraud moving forward.