ATLANTA — An Atlanta man has been sentenced to prison in connection to a multi-million dollar international cyber fraud scheme.
Between August 2019 and November 2020, 36-year-old Christian Akhatsegbe, his brother, Emmanuel Aiye Akhatsegbe, and others, engaged in spear phishing, credential harvesting, and business email compromise schemes, which included sending phishing emails to employees of companies and agencies in the United States and the United Kingdom, stealing and harvesting the employee credentials on computer servers, using the stolen credentials to access the victims’ computers, and then sending fraudulent invoices to victims requesting payment of funds to foreign bank accounts.
“The far-reaching scope of this defendant’s criminal conduct is astonishing,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Hiding behind several aliases, Christian Akhatsegbe and his conspirators stole employee credentials, unlawfully accessed computers, and attempted to scam companies out of more than $12 million.
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In addition to these schemes, Christian Akhatsegbe also participated in hundreds of thousands of dollars of COVID-19-related loan fraud.
In November 2019, for example, an employee of a company in the United Kingdom received a phishing email, which resulted in their credentials being logged, stolen, and later stored on a computer server that was accessed and maintained by Christian Akhatsegbe and his conspirators.
Using the stolen credentials, the conspirators sent an email to another employee of the company that appeared to originate from one of the company’s vendors.
The email attached a fraudulent invoice in the amount of $434,383.45 with wiring instructions to a bank in Hong Kong.
The victim company later paid the fraudulent invoice and wired the funds to Hong Kong.
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Similarly, in December 2019, using credentials stolen from a Massachusetts victim company employee, Christian Akhatsegbe and his conspirators sent an email to another employee of the company that appeared to originate from one of the company’s vendors.
The email attached a fraudulent invoice in the amount of $498,000 and requested that the victim send payment to a bank in Hong Kong.
The victim paid the invoice, together with a second invoice in the same amount, wiring a total of $996,000 to a bank account in Hong Kong.
In January and April 2020, Christian Akhatsegbe and his conspirators perpetrated a similar scheme against two other United Kingdom-based companies, sending fraudulent invoices in the amount of $498,000 and $980,000, respectively.
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But these victim companies recognized the invoices as fraudulent and did not remit payment. In total, the conspirators sent victim companies fraudulent invoices in the amount of $12,861,290.59.
Of this amount, victims paid invoices in the total amount of $2,268,329.69.
An investigation revealed that Christian Akhatsegbe used stolen identities to submit 40 fraudulent applications for COVID-19 loans amounting to nearly $3 million.
Christian Akhatsegbe was sentenced to seven years, three months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution of a little more than $2 million.
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