The U.S. government has filed a civil forfeiture action to recover $5.3 million linked to a business email compromise (BEC) scheme that defrauded a Massachusetts workers union. In January 2023, a spoofed email led the union to transfer $6.4 million to a fraudulent account, with the funds routed through various international banks and cryptocurrency exchanges.

U.S. authorities have seized money from seven domestic accounts connected to the scheme. These details were shared in a Wednesday press release from the United States Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts, obtained on Thursday.

“BEC fraud schemes present a serious threat to businesses and individuals nationwide, causing significant financial and emotional harm to victims by exploiting trusted communication channels they rely upon every day,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Today’s civil forfeiture action demonstrates that when victims report such misconduct to the authorities, there may be steps we can take to recover stolen funds. We hope today’s action helps restore some level of stability and justice for those impacted by fraud.”

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The statement, issued in Boston, also advised the public to contact USAMA.CyberTip@usdoj.gov if they believe they are victims of cybercrime, including cryptocurrency scams, romance scams, investment scams, and BEC fraud scams.

According to the press release, the fraudulently obtained funds were transferred through a series of intermediary bank accounts, with some funds routed to a cryptocurrency exchange and various bank accounts in Hong Kong, China, Singapore, and Nigeria.

“The United States filed a civil forfeiture action today to recover approximately $5,315,746 alleged to be proceeds of a BEC scheme targeting a Massachusetts workers union, as well as property involved in money laundering,” the statement read. “In January 2023, a workers union in Dorchester received an email requesting a change of payment information from someone it believed worked at an investment consulting firm. The email came from what appeared to be the consulting firm’s true email address but was actually a spoofed address changed by one letter. The spoofed email instructed the union to transfer $6,400,000 to a different bank account, which the union did.”

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Investigators traced the proceeds of the scheme to seven domestically held bank accounts, which were subsequently seized by U.S. authorities.

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This announcement indicates that the U.S. government is taking legal action to recover funds allegedly obtained through fraudulent means, involving cooperation between various law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. The civil forfeiture process requires the government to provide evidence to prove its case before any forfeiture can be ordered by the court.

Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Andrew Murphy, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Boston Field Office, made the announcement. The civil forfeiture action is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Lyons of the Asset Recovery Unit, along with Trial Attorneys Jasmin Salehi Fashami and Adrienne E. Rosen of the Justice Department’s Money Laundering & Asset Recovery Section.

A BEC scheme is a sophisticated fraud targeting businesses that use wire transfers. These schemes affect global corporations, governments, and individuals, with estimated global daily losses of approximately $8 million. Criminals compromise legitimate business email accounts through hacking, social engineering, and malware use.