NORFOLK, Va. (WRIC) — A man who holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and Nigeria was extradited from Great Britain this month to face federal charges of wire fraud in a scheme that cost Virginia Commonwealth university hundreds of thousands of dollars.
According to a criminal complaint filed in 2019, an employee with VCU’s procurement department received an email from an individual using the name “Rachel Moore” and claiming to be a representative of construction firm Kjellstrom and Lee, which has frequently worked on projects for the university.
Lending credibility to the scam was the email address used: “accounts@kjellstromleegroup,” which closely resembled the actual email address used by the company.
Over a lengthy email exchange, the scammer managed to convince the VCU employee that the account that normally received payments from the university was being audited, and that money would have to be sent by wire transfer instead.
Following the Money
Two weeks after the transfer was made, VCU’s bank contacted them with concerns that the payment, which was bound for the Bank of Hope in Los Angeles, was fraudulent. The university contacted Kjellstrom Lee and was informed that no employee named “Rachel Moore” worked there, and the group had not requested a wire transfer.
Once the $469,819.49 was sent to the Bank of Hope, it was payed out in increments of about $7,000, mainly to clothing stores int he L.A. area, according to an FBI investigation. They added, in a request to extradite the man they believe to be responsible, that “the majority of the wire transfer by VCU could not be recovered and was a loss for the university.”
The money had been received by an individual named only as H.C. in court documents, the proprietor of EDHD Inc., a California-based company. Corporate records show that Hakhyun Chun, likely the individual named in the complaint, is the registered agent of EDHD Inc.
H.C. claimed that he had been asked to accept the money as an investment by two individuals who wanted to invest in his company. According to investigators, H.C. had other debts, and so claimed not to have asked for the identities of the individuals.
Meanwhile, agents were attempting to track down the source of the emails that initiated the scam.
Records indicated that the domain had been registered by an individual who also registered a number of other “lookalike” email addresses for major construction companies.
But the account had been paid for using bitcoin, and the user had obscured their IP address using a Verified Proxy Network, or VPN, a tool that blocks a user’s identity from being tracked online.
As a result, the FBI sought a search warrant or the electronic data behind the account.
The next day, the FBI sent an email, made to appear as if it was from a VCU account, to the scam email address. The email was then opened by someone with a British Telecom IP address.
That address was registered to Samiat Egbinola, the wife of Olabanji Oladotun Egbinola. Olabanji Egbionola had previously been convicted of fraud and money laundering in the United Kingdom.
Emails on Egbionola’s personal computer connected him to the cases of two other accused fraudsters in North Carolina and Texas, who carried out similar schemes there.
But Egbionola wasn’t arrested in the United Kingdom until April 2020, and the appeals process for the extradition lasted until July 12 of this year.
Now, Egbionola will face charges of wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit the same. Egbionola faces a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison and over a million dollars in fines, though it’s unlikely the maximum sentence will be imposed.