Obinwanne Okeke, a young Nigerian businessman popularly known as Invictus Obi, has been jailed for 10 years by a U.S. federal court over his involvement in an $11 million cyber fraud on a British company. Okeke, who had been honored by Forbes as one of the youngest enterprising individuals in Africa, sparked an online frenzy recently when news broke that he had been arrested for defrauding a British company and some top American companies of huge sums of money.
The young Nigerian entrepreneur had traveled to the U.S. recently without prior knowledge that he was being investigated by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for $11 million fraud.
A statement Tuesday after his sentencing said the court heard that “through subterfuge and impersonation, Obinwanne Okeke, engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims.”
The FBI had, in June 2018, received complaints from the British company, Unatrac, an international subsidiary of heavy equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, that Okeke gained unauthorized access to the e-mail account of its chief financial officer and was behind a series of fake invoices totaling $11 million. “In April 2018, a Unatrac executive fell prey to a phishing email that allowed conspirators to capture login credentials,” according to the statement released Tuesday by Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.
“The conspirators sent fraudulent wire transfer requests and attached fake invoices. Okeke participated in the effort to victimize Unatrac through fraudulent wire transfers totaling nearly $11 million, which was transferred overseas,” the statement added.
Okeke in June 2020 pleaded guilty to the charge after he was arrested by the FBI at Dulles International Airport in Virginia in August 2019 during a visit to the U.S. During the investigation, which lasted for almost a year, it emerged that Okeke and six others were involved in the crimes, which included wire frauds between 2015 to 2019. The FBI also said Okeke duped an American shoe manufacturer and used several e-mail accounts which have already been linked to fraudulent activities online.
33-year-old Okeke, who was in 2016 named by Forbes as one of ’30 Entrepreneurs Under 30 to Watch’, is the founder of Invictus Group, which has investments in construction, agriculture, oil and gas, telecoms and real estate. As of 2016, Okeke, who holds a Bachelors and a master’s degree (MA) in International Relations and Counter Terrorism (cum laude) from Monash University, Australia, had 28 permanent and 100 part-time employees across nine companies.
The Nigerian entrepreneur has been widely celebrated not only in his country but across the continent. Recently, he was listed among 100 Most Influential Young Africans 2018 and was nominated for the All African Business Leaders Award for Young Business Leader (West Africa). The AABLA Award is the most prestigious award for African entrepreneurs and Okeke was nominated alongside three others.