PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Two Nigerian nationals accused of fraud are facing multiple charges after they allegedly tried to steal $25 million from multiple public and private entities, including at least one in Oregon.
Efeturi Ariawhorai, who is also referred to Efeturi Simeon, and Ikenna Nwajiaku are charged with an 11-count indictment with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, federal prosecutors announced on Monday.
“Federal law enforcement is determined to use every tool and capability it has to pursue cyber criminals and retrieve money mistakenly sent to unknown bank accounts. We applaud the local victim in this case for quickly reporting the crime and giving authorities the best possible chance at retrieving their money. Unfortunately, many of these situations go a different and very costly way,” said Assistant United States Attorney Quinn Harrington, Chief of the Cyber and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.
From June 2019 to Jan. 2021, Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku targeted nearly two dozen entities, including school districts, universities and hospitals, according to authorities.
The indictment says the duo would allegedly convince organizations to send payments to bank accounts controlled by a third party associated by emailing the organizations and posing as an employee from another company doing business with the intended target, like a construction company.
Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku tricked organizations by using false names, identity-concealing technologies, along with email addresses and internet domain names similar to those of real companies, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Authorities say the two managed to steal $25.2 million from 20 organizations, with 15 of those organizations losing a combined $6.2 million.
If convicted, Ariawhorai and Nwajiaku face up to 20 years in federal prison and three years of supervised release for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They could also face up to two years and one year of supervised release per county of conviction for aggravated identity theft.
Italian authorities arrested Ariawhorai on Nov. 25, 2021, before the United States formally requested his extradition. However, he fled house arrest before being transferred to the District of Oregon.
The FBI handled the investigation, while AUSA Harrington is prosecuting the case.