The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia along with the Office of the Georgia Attorney General, six metro-Atlanta District Attorneys, the FBI Atlanta Field Office, U.S. Secret Service, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and local law enforcement joined forces one year ago to combat the laundering of cyber-enabled fraud proceeds through banks in the Atlanta area. This month the Georgia Cyber Fraud Task Force marks the anniversary with successes in prosecution, community outreach, and training events to combat the rise of “money mule” activity here in Atlanta.
“As a result of the extraordinary partnership between federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, money mules and other enablers of cyber-fraud related crimes in our District will be held accountable for their illegal conduct on a broad scale,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “This type of coordination and partnership strengthens our law enforcement response and works to protect our citizens.”
“For over a year, our Cyber Fraud Task Force has worked to investigate, prosecute and prevent cybercrime, and we are already moving the needle significantly,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “Through enhanced communication and collaboration on the local, state, and federal levels, we are strengthening our response to address this problem head-on and ensure bad actors are held accountable. We are proud of the role our office plays in protecting Georgia’s citizens and businesses from cyber fraud schemes, and we will continue our efforts to disrupt this type of criminal enterprise in our state.”
“These important cases can seem daunting to an individual agency, but when you have a task force like this one full of resources, we can work together to bring justice to victims. The Clayton County District Attorney’s Office looks forward to continued partnership and success with the Georgia Cyber-Fraud Task Force,” said Clayton County District Attorney Tasha Mosley.
“We are proud to work together with our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies to combat cyber fraud. We will continue to do our part to hold accountable the criminals who hide behind computer screens and phone calls to rob our citizens of their hard-earned money,” said Cobb County District Attorney Flynn D. Broady Jr.
“The Office of the DeKalb County District Attorney remains committed to this partnership. Combatting cyber fraud is a top priority as we endeavor to protect unwitting and vulnerable individuals and entities from this predatory crime. Joint collaboration between local, state and federal partners is integral to our success,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.
“It is no secret that fraud is a major problem in Atlanta. That is why I have made it a priority for my office’s White Collar Crime Unit to participate in the Georgia Cyber Fraud Task Force alongside our fellow Metro Atlanta law enforcement partners to keep money out of the hands of criminals. I promised the citizens of Fulton County that I would protect our community from criminal enterprises, and that is exactly what this task force is accomplishing,” said Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
“As these crimes become more prevalent, it is imperative that we work in concert to obliterate them. Our constituency is placed in peril when criminals take advantage of them. The financial cyber fraud task force is a strong vehicle to keep our communities safe and we look forward to continued work with them,” said Gwinnett Judicial Circuit District Attorney Patsy Austin-Gatson.
“The FBI would like to thank our federal, state and local partners for their successful coordinated effort to fight cyber fraud throughout the state of Georgia over the past year,” said Philip Wislar, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “We plan to continue working together to tackle the ever-changing cyber threat through continuous community education on cyber hygiene and relentless pursuit in investigating and prosecuting cyber criminals.”
“The success of the Georgia Cyber-Fraud Task Force relies on the dedication of its partners,” said Steven R. Baisel, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service-Atlanta Field Office. “We will continue to provide the resources needed to fight this kind of fraud.”
“With advancements in technology, Georgians and Georgia businesses are highly susceptible to online fraud. By partnering with the members of this task force, the GBI’s Georgia Cyber Crime Center (G3C) has successfully conducted several cyber investigations in an effort to help combat these fraudulent schemes,” said Vic Reynolds, Director, Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
Business Email Compromise (BEC) fraud schemes, romance scams, sweepstakes scams, and so-called grandparent scams, all result in a signification amount of personal and business wealth being funneled by fraudsters into bank accounts opened for the purpose of accepting those fraud proceeds. The person responsible for opening the bank account, or accepting the funds into an already existing account, is referred to as a “money mule;” their job is to accept the money and transfer most of it on to other fraudsters in the scheme—their payout is to keep a portion of the money. FBI statistics show Atlanta in the top five cities nationwide for money mule activity.
The task force has engaged with business leaders and community organizations to raise awareness of the money mule issue in our city, including presentations to banking and real estate professionals’ groups as well as the Georgia Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Board. Members of the task force have made presentations to church and community groups to provide valuable information to citizens about how to avoid becoming a victim and what to do in the event that a scam is successful. The task force is also committed to the training and continuing education of both prosecutors and law enforcement tasked with responding to these crimes and has made several presentations to law enforcement and investigator groups both locally and nationally.
During the past year, the Georgia Cyber Fraud Task Force has referred out over 50 leads to local and state law enforcement for investigation of money mules. Those leads have come from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, known as IC3, and from leads sent to the task force from law enforcement all over the country through the StopTheMuleGa initiative.
The leads have so far resulted in charges against the following individuals:
• Bernard Kaba, 61, of Morrow, Georgia, is charged with three counts of theft by taking in connection with his receipt of BEC fraud proceeds.
• Borin Khoun, 44, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, is charged with four counts of theft by taking in connection with his receipt of fraud proceeds from a romance scam.
• Mark L. Jones, 65, of Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with one count of theft by taking in connection with his receipt of BEC fraud proceeds that had targeted the proceeds of a real estate closing.
• Bobby Umogbai, 24, of Atlanta, Georgia, was arrested on theft charges related to his receipt of BEC fraud proceeds.
• Alexis Garcia, 24, of Smyrna, Georgia, is charged with wire fraud and money laundering charges related to his receipt of proceeds from a government imposter scam.
• Olayemi Fadipe, 40, of Duluth, Georgia, was arrested on theft charges related to his receipt of fraud proceeds from the victim of a romance scam.
• Eugene W. McNair Jr., 50, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was arrested on theft charges related to his receipt of BEC fraud proceeds.
• Chigbogwu G. Nnamani, 52, of Lawrenceville, Georgia, was arrested on theft charges related to his receipt of BEC fraud proceeds.
Members of the public are reminded that these are only charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.