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Feds Charge Nigerian National with Compromising Email Accounts of Pharmaceutical Employees, Money Laundering

New Jersey

By: Richard L Smith

 A Nigerian man has been indicted for his role in computer hacking, wire fraud, and money laundering acts that defrauded companies of nearly $8 million after compromising companies’ business e-mail accounts, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.

Oladeji Nathaniel Adelekan, aka “Djzle,” 28, of Lagos, Nigeria, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one count each of wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, conspiracy to access a protected computer in furtherance of fraud, unauthorized access of a computer with intent to defraud, and money laundering conspiracy.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Between February 2019 and April 2020, Adelekan and his conspirators enriched themselves by tricking corporate employees into transferring company funds to bank accounts that the conspirators controlled. Using phishing emails, Adelekan and his conspirators compromised the email accounts of corporate victims, including a pharmaceutical company headquartered in New Jersey and a technology firm headquartered in Oregon.

In April 2019, the conspirators sent a phishing email to an email account controlled by the pharmaceutical company. Once an employee clicked on a link in the email, the company’s email system was compromised, and the hackers diverted emails sent to the company’s compromised email account to an email account they controlled. Pulling information from the emails that they had diverted, Adelekan and his conspirators spoofed other email accounts at the pharmaceutical company and its supplier. In May 2019, using the supplier’s spoofed email account, the conspirators directed the pharmaceutical company to send a $7.5 million wire transfer to a bank in Mexico for the purported benefit of the supplier to satisfy an outstanding invoice, but which wire transfer actually went to a bank account controlled by the conspirators.

In January 2020, the coconspirators used similar tactics to obtain access to an email account of the Oregon technology firm. The hackers then diverted business emails from that email account to an email account they controlled. In April 2020, the conspirators caused an employee of the Oregon technology firm to execute a $130,000 wire transfer to a bank account in Hong Kong, another bank account controlled by Adelekan and his conspirators.

The counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud each carry a maximum potential punishment of 20 years in prison. The counts of conspiracy to commit unauthorized access of a computer and unauthorized access of a computer each carry a maximum punishment of five years in prison. The count of money laundering conspiracy carries a maximum of 20 years in prison. All of the charges carry a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gain caused by the offense, whichever is greatest.