Several charged in coordinated action in business email compromise and money laundering schemes

By: U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas
| Published 06/08/2023


HOUSTON, TX -- A total of 11 people in multiple states are now in custody on charges filed in two separate business email compromise prosecutions in the Southern Districts of Texas and New York, announced U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani.

The two-count Texas indictment charges five - Bolaji Okunnu, 29, and Philip Ogbeide Jr., 33, both of Houston; Ayodegi Okunnu, 24, Austin; and Victor Rubio Jr., 26, and Bougar Robert Linares Soto, 41, both of Los Angeles, California. Okunnu and Ogbeide made their initial appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray in Houston this afternoon.

Six others – all of whom reside in the Houston area – are charged in the New York indictment and also expected to appear today. More information will be available later on this case.

All are charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

The charges unsealed today pertain to alleged schemes that caused millions in losses to victims who were deceived into sending money to those charged in the scheme.

The charges stem primarily from business email compromise schemes. Conspirators allegedly posed as legitimate businesses and fraudulently diverted money from victim bank accounts into accounts they controlled. According to the charges, they gained access to business email accounts and spoofed email addresses to deceive victims into believing they were making legitimate payments.

The Texas charges include an alleged scheme that fraudulently diverted payments intended for a vendor that had provided electrical and mechanical services to a township in New Jersey. The charges allege conspirators obtained access to the email account of one of the vendor’s employees. They then used that email account to request payment for services to be sent to a new bank account that did not belong to the vendor, according to the charges.

The New Jersey township was allegedly deceived into wiring $287,236 to a fraudulent bank account Rubio had opened instead of actually paying the vendor. The charges further allege conspirators laundered the funds in a manner designed to conceal the source, ownership and control of the funds by quickly transferring the money from Rubio’s account to other bank accounts they controlled. They then withdrew the fraud proceeds incrementally in cash.

If convicted, those charged in Texas each face up to 20 years in prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

The FBI conducted the investigation with valuable assistance from the Middlesex County District Attorney’s Office and the Edison Police Department in New Jersey. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Belinda Beek and Thomas Carter are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.