He was featured on Forbes under 30, list of young millionaires, celebrated far and wide by friends and well-wishers, even the “God-Wheners” who envy his success as an Entrepreneur and a young African force to be reckoned with. That was Obinwanne Okeke, a.k.a Invictus Obi, the founder and CEO of Invictus Group of Companies, not long ago. He was basking in the glory and honor of his successful empire until a few days ago, when the FBI’s investigative wind blew toward his castle and exposed the skeletons his empire was built upon.
In a painstaking investigation, the FBI revealed that the high flying young man, whose investment in real estate, energy and construction, is operational in 3 African countries namely, Nigeria, Zambia and South Africa, have been a kingpin of wire fraud. The $11 million graft investigation started in June 2018, when the victim, Unatrac Holding Limited, a UK headquartered caterpillar and industrial heavy duty machines company filed a complaint with the FBI, reporting that company has been defrauded through email phishing.
The Bureau went to work, started connecting the odds and putting the pieces together to find that the email address of the company has actually been compromised and the traces are pointing to Nigeria. There was a well calculated move that took the unsuspecting company unaware.
According to the FBI’s Affidavit, on about April 2018, Unatrac’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), received a Phishing email containing a weblink, purportedly to the login page of the CFO’s online email account hosted by Microsoft office365. When the CFO opened the link, it led him to a phishing website crafted to imitate the original Office365 login page. Not concerned about the legitimacy of the page since it appears the same, he put in his login credentials and they were all captured through the spoofed webpage.
After capturing the legitimate credentials, the Fraudster was able to log into the original Office365 email account and accessed the entire information. For over 464 times, he accessed the account, gathering information and planning how to use them.
Satisfied with the information at his disposal and with full access to the account, Invictus Obi started working full time. Manipulating templates, cloning invoices and receipts, forwarding them to partners and clients of Unatrac.
During the period of unauthorized access, activity logs show that the Invictus created modified filter rules for the CFO’s account on seven occasions between April 10 and April 17, 2018. The filter rules intercepted legitimate emails to and from employees on financial team, marked them as read, and moved them to another folder outside the inbox. Thus, he hid from the CFO, responses from the individuals he was sending fabricated emails.
It was on the belief that those emails were coming from the CFO that the company’s financial staff processed and transferred in installments, the whooping sum of $11 million. And it was too late to recall by the time it was discovered to be fraud.
Wondering how in the world Invictus Obi was able to pull that off? He had a degree in forensic criminology with distinction. So his criminal mind outsmarted the unsuspecting protocols, and the fraudulent proceeds were worth the risk. But as smart as he thought he was, he gave himself away with one important detail – his email.
Invictus Obi, in his smartfulness created REDACTED emails and phone numbers to carry out his schemes. One of those emails happened to be his company’s email that he has severally used to apply for US visas. He was still in the US when the FBI uncovered that and issued a warrant for his arrest.
So the wind did not only expose the skeletons beneath his castle, it also shook the foundation so that it comes crumbling. But not only for him but several others, especially those doing legit online businesses in Nigeria. The green passport has taken another jab, and the impact will be felt at the airports, seaports and shores away from home – especially by the innocent.
Those whose only crime is to live in geographical territory where criminals thrive, and to share the same means of identification with them when it matters. Their cry of innocence wouldn’t change the status quo, and their good reputation will make no difference. It’s the index finger that got dipped into the oil, but the rest of the fingers got stained by it.