JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – On September 28, U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden entered a Final Judgment of Forfeiture against $18,500 in U.S. Currency seized in the form of a cashier check from one of the co-conspirators of a fraud scheme. U.S. Attorney Todd Gee said the funds will be returned to the victim of the scheme.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the co-conspirator was engaged in a business email compromise scheme (BEC) to receive fraud proceeds. A BEC is a scam that often targets businesses and individuals involved in wire transfer payments. 

The fraud is carried out by compromising and/or “spoofing” legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques. It causes employees of the victim company (or other individuals involved in legitimate business transactions with them) to transfer funds to accounts the scammers control.

The complaint was filed on June 12, alleging that on September 25, 2020, the victim received an email appearing to be from his attorney, giving him wiring instructions needed to close on a real estate transaction. The fraudulent email instructed the victim to send the funds via wire transfer to a bank account set up by a co-conspirator. Following the fraudulent instructions, the victim wired approximately $142,834.80 to the account.

After an investigation, the government seized $18,500 in the form of a cashier check that had been issued to the co-conspirator in a fictitious name. After the complaint was filed in federal court, the victim filed a claim and answer in the civil forfeiture proceeding, explaining that he had been the victim of the fraud scheme. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office entered into a Stipulated Settlement Agreement with the victim and asked the court to enter a Final Judgment ordering the return of the $18,500 to the victim and canceling the interests of any other person or entity.

Officials said BEC schemes can be prevented. Here are some tips:

  • Independently obtain mortgage payoff statements and confirm with verified and trusted sources.
  • Independently verify the authenticity of information included in correspondence and statements.
  • Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) on all email accounts.
  • Routinely change passwords.
  • Routinely monitor email account access, check for unauthorized email rules and forwarding settings.
  • Restrict wire transfers to known and previously verified accounts.
  • Pay using checks when the information cannot be independently verified.
  • Have a clear and detailed Incident Response Plan.