Tuesday, March 26, 2024

BEC Scammers Adventures on the Run

 Last week the case of Valentine FOMBE was finally brought to a close. FOMBE was sentenced to 144 months in Federal prison and ordered to pay $325,856 in restitution to victims of Business Email Compromise scams that he conducted from 2016 to 2018.  The various court documents present nearly as many puzzles as the sentence answers. Chief among them, what happened to the co-conspirators? and why have they not also been sentenced? 

The indictment against FOMBE, OWOLABI, and ADEOYE demonstrates that they conducted Business Email Compromise #BEC scams against businesses in California, Tennessee, Michigan, Hawaii, Illinois, and California, as well as Check fraud against the Home Equity Line of Credit #HLOC accounts of some residents of Florida, Hawaii, and California.

The scams ran from 2016 until 2019 using many shell accounts established by FOMBE and his crew. FOMBE is from Cameroon and came to the US in 2013. In May 2016 he began conspiring with Bernadette ATTIA and Gbenga OWOLABI to conduct BEC scams. Homeland Security Investigations stated that the attempted losses were $2,036,064 from at least 22 victims and actual losses were $547,310.23 to 11 victim individuals and businesses, with many other identity theft victims.

The indicment and assorted court documents are full of communications between the parties such as this one, where an unnamed co-conspirator and FOMBE discuss opening a new PayPal account and a "Sunny" (which is a SunTrust bank account.) 

OWOLABI shares an invoice for $49,671.90 via Whatsapp and receives directions for how to wire the funds to an account in the name JBS Holding at Woodforest bank. Another JBS Holding account was at SunTrust and received $86,116.51 from another BEC victim. 

ADEOYE is listed in the indictment as having opened a mailbox at a store in Lutherville, Maryland in the name of one of the Ohio BEC victim companies, and on the same day, opening a Bank of America business checking account in the company's name.  ADEOYE sent those details to OWOLABI via WhatsApp and one week later a $96,000 check from one of the victims was deposited into the account. He did the same for Ohio Company 2, and that BofA account soon received a $57,000 wire from another victim and later $50,500 from yet another victim. 

The shell companies created by FOMBE and his crew included:

  • ABC Auto & Credit Solutions - $80,450.89 intended loss - $15,801.18 actual
    (bank accounts at Capital One and SunTrust)
  • Stars S. Peoples Republik LLC - $262,580 intended loss - $$9,257.34 actual 
    (bank accounts at SunTrust) 
  • Swift Transfer LLC - $248,400.62 intended loss - $98,555.16 actual 
    (bank accounts at BB&T and SunTrust) 
  • Best Alter Solutions - $8,034.86 actual loss 
    (bank accounts at PNC Bank and TD Bank) 
  • Bianka Ventures - $128,765 actual loss 
    (bank accounts at SunTrust)
  • Xena Ventures - $290,662.27 intended loss ( $0 actual as funds recovered) 
    (bank accounts at SunTrust) 
  • Mbi Fuo B. Attia - $66,019 intended loss - $50,000 actual loss 
    (bank accounts at SunTrust)
  • JBS Holding LLC - $417,752.36 intended loss - $81,151.47 actual 
    (Bank accounts at Woodforest National Bank and SunTrust) 
  • Vincent's Mass Gutters - $386,100 intended loss - $90,745.22 actual 
    (bank accounts t Bank of America) 
  • PSP Holdings - $130,750 intended loss - $65,000 actual 
    (bank accounts at SunTrust)

(BEC intended losses - many wires were reversed/recovered - actual losses $490,559.19)

(Check fraud intended losses - Actual losses was $56,751.04)

The total actual losses for the case were $547,310.23, of which FOMBE would be held responsible for $325,856 in his eventual sentencing. 

FOMBE: A Bad Place To Park

The case actually started when FOMBE was stopped by the U.S. Park Police while idling along the BWI highway in a car with Texas Buyer temporary plates that were altered. FOMBE had 18 credit and debit cards in a variety of names, as well as driver's licenses with his photo and two other names (Mark Johnson and William Adewale). This led to Attia's apartment being searched, who was also found to have documents and cards in other names, including a fake passport with her photo and another's name. 

There was prior history, however. In the government's sentencing memo they describe it as 
"The Defendant's fraudulent conduct did not stop with this wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Every ounce of the Defendant's existence was fraudulent.

While FOMBE was living in the Arbors at Arundel Preserve, his landlord accused him of fraud and terminated his lease.  He had claimed to have a $6,000 monthly income from ABC Auto & Credit Solutions, which was false, and paid his rent with credit cards that were not in his name. He abandoned the property leaving behind two fake ids and ten bank cards all in the names of others, as well as bank statements for numerous accounts related to his fraud. 

After purchasing a Porsche for $40,000 with ill-gotten funds, he traveled to North Carolina and rented a car where he staged an accident to try to total the Porsche and claim insurance. He was charged with insurance fraud in North Carolina.

While living at Avalon Russett apartment in Laurel, Maryland, FOMBE was again going to be evicted and again abandoned the property, this time leaving behind 50 blank credit cards, two mag-stripe readers and a credit card writing machine. The land lord also found multiple credit cards in the names of people not on the lease. 

 On 25SEP2019, when the police came to execute a warrant at FOMBE's house, his wife, Ossele Massaba, texted him "the police here" and he fled the country. When Fombe's wife was returning to the US in May 2022, her phone was searched and was found to have a photo of Fombe on a Honduran passport in the name "Rosnell Eduardo Martinez Garcia." This was used to find that "Rosnell Garcia" was living in the UK, where he was arrested 06AUG2022.

During that time abroad, FOMBE lived in Mexico, Honduras, and the UK, and conducted an additional $1.7 Million in fraud against the US Government through an Unemployment Insurance scam. He sent instructions and identities to Massaba, who filed 88 claims in Maryland using the email Email6543@yahoo.com and received $535,172 in UI benefits. They filed an additional 108 claims using Mail9850@yahoo.com. Altogether, Maryland paid them $1,708,256.  (These fraud filings are not part of the current case.)

Zack Abolaji Adeoye

Zack Adeoye was already known to Maryland police before this case came up. 

In March 2019, the local newspaper "Trib Live" shared the headline "Maryland man arrested in Hempfield in $112k computer sting." According to that article, Adeoye, "a native of Nigeria who now lives in Upper Marlboro, MD" went to a FedEx facility to pick up a shipment of 28 MacBook Pro laptops valued at $112,454.  He was arrested and held in the Westmoreland County Prison after failing to post $100,000 bail. Undercover state troopers had been tipped off that Adeoye had set up a bogus line of credit claiming to be the CFO of an Illionois firm that had ordered the laptops. He had already successfully gotten away with 30 laptops, but undercover agents were in place when he went to pick up the second shipment. Adeoye entered the facility by showing a fake FedEx employee badge. State Trooper spokesperson Steven Papuga told the Trib that Adeoye had a previous record for Identity Theft in the state. 

ADEOYE first appeared in court related to the current case on 11OCT2019 and was released on 15OCT2019 with electronic monitoring and an order not to use the Internet and that all Internet-capable devices must be removed from the home. He was arraigned on 12NOV2019 and entered a NOT GUILTY plea. His conditions of release were modified to allow him to leave the home for religious services.

On 02OCT2020 "superseding information" was filed by the court detailing more actions of his crimes and he changed his plea to Guilty.  He was scheduled to be sentenced on 21MAY2021. And 19JAN2022. And 19APR2022. And 02DEC2022. As of this writing, he has not been sentenced. 

Just after his guilty plea, a photo of ADEOYE was posted greeting him on his 50th birthday using his full name, Abdulrasak (from which, Zack) Adeoye "Zacophonic" and praising him for his "fatherly role on your brothers."  

Even after his guilty plea, Zack continued in business, creating a new corporation, "Zacophonic Home Inc" on 12JUL2022 using his Upper Marlboro, MD address. 


The third party in this case, Gbenga Owolabi, barely appears in the court record after the indictment.  There is no record of him appearing in court or having been arraigned.  On 18NOV2019, the court mentions that some $13,055 in U.S. currency was seized from his apartment at 1624 Bluestone Street, Apartment E, in Hanover, Maryland following a search conducted on 25SEP2019. 

As is often the case, it is difficult to tell what occurred when Owolabi fled to Nigeria. 

According to local media OWOLABI had moved to Canada where he studied Information Systems at Humber College in Toronto.  He later moved to Maryland where he worked as a Financial Analyst for Alpharma Inc before moving to Cyhosting Corporation, which he founded in May 2000. He also ran Tanatek Inc, a website design company, and according to the Nigerian press, served as its CEO until his death.
A profile of Olugbenga Owolabi ran in Neusroom in his hometown.

In 2016, OWOLABI started building a hotel called Tana Suites in Abaa, Oyo State, Nigeria, which was completed and opened in December 2021.  He returned to Nigeria on 20JUL2022 and when he arrived at his hotel on 28JUL2022, he and a 21-year old female employee were kidnapped. There were two other abductions close in time to this date.  On 16JUL2022, a farm supervisor, Christopher Bakare was kidnapped and released after paying a ₦5 million ransom, then 22JUL2022, the owner of Titilayo Hospital was abducted and released on 26JUL2022 after also paying a ransom. 

OWOLABI's brother led the negotiations and eventually raised ₦5m ransom, although the kidnappers were demanding ₦50m ransom, believing OWOLABI to be a wealthy American. 
As a sign of how the Nigerian economy has crashed recently, 50 Million Naira in August of 2022 would have been $120,000 USD.  Today it would be $36,000.

The Alabaa of Abaa (a local tribal authority) found a volunteer to deliver the ransom on motorcycle. When he arrived, the gunmen killed the driver as well as Gbenga Owolabi and his hotel emplooyee Racheal Opadele.  The autopsy showed that Owolabi had been extensively tortured before being killed. 

The U.S. government received permission to attend the autopsy at LAUTECH Teaching Hospital and identify the body, and escorted the body back to Maryland for burial, where it was first also re-identified at the Delaware State Military Hospital.

Olugbenga David OWOLABI was kidnapped on 28JUL2022 and killed 02AUG2022. While the Nigerian police originally charged his brother, Femi Owolabi, with the kidnapping and murder, who confessed to the deed.  Later, the family helped him to recant of his confession, and the crime has instead been assigned to "Fulani herdsman" - a favorite boogie man of Nigerian culture.