Foreign National Faces Federal Charges for Wire Fraud, Money Laundering and Aggravated Identity Theft Related to a Business Email Compromise Scheme
Victims of the Scheme were in at least Five States including California, Tennessee, Michigan, Hawaii, and Illinois
Greenbelt, Maryland – Njuh Valentine Fombe, a/k/a “Valentine”, age 36, formerly of Beltsville, Maryland, had an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt on August 8, 2022, after being a fugitive for almost three years until his arrest on August 6, 2022. A federal grand jury indicted Fombe on September 23, 2019, on charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, aggravated identity theft. At his initial appearance, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan ordered that Fombe remains detained pending trial.
The arrest and indictment were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department; and Chief Russell E. Hamill III of the Laurel Police Department.
According to the three-count indictment, from at least September 2016 to August 2018, Fombe conspired with others to commit wire fraud by conducting business email compromise schemes (“BEC schemes”) in which the defendants gained unauthorized access to email accounts, personal identifying information, and bank accounts by sending false wiring instructions to the victims’ email accounts. Fombe and his co-conspirators then allegedly used the illegally obtained personal information to obtain counterfeit checks in the name and information of the victims’ bank accounts. Victims of the alleged BEC scheme span across five states including California, Tennessee, Michigan, Hawaii, and Illinois. Fombe and his co-conspirators also allegedly registered fraudulent shell entities to facilitate the scheme. The indictment further alleges that members of the conspiracy managed drop accounts held in fraudulent shell entities’ names, as well as their names and aliases to direct and receive proceeds of the BEC and check schemes.
If convicted, Fombe faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 20 years in federal prison for conspiracy to commit money laundering, and a mandatory two years in federal prison consecutive to any other sentence imposed for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI, the Baltimore County Police Department and the Laurel Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kelly Hayes, and Christopher Sarma, who are prosecuting the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
Source: U.S.A.O., District of Maryland