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Nearly $275K returned to Mississippi fraud victim through civil forfeiture

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A total of $273,082.50 has been returned to a Mississippi fraud victim through civil forfeiture of a bank.

According to the verified complaint for forfeiture filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a Bank First account — opened in February 2023 — had been the recipient of fraud proceeds deposited by the perpetrator of a business email compromise scheme (BEC).

A BEC is a sophisticated scam, often targeting businesses involved in wire transfer payments. The fraud is carried out by compromising or “spoofing” legitimate business email accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques. It often leads to employees of the victim transferring funds to accounts the scammers control.

The complaint alleges that on March 30, an employee of the victim — a law firm — received an email purportedly from one of the firm’s clients, falsely instructing the employee to transfer funds owed by the firm to the client. The faux email appeared to be from the firm’s client and listed the account to which the funds were to be transferred.

The employee followed the instructions in the fraudulent email and wired funds into the account. Days later, the perpetrator of the fraud used $250,000 of the funds to purchase a Wells Fargo cashier’s check and withdrew $50,000 in cash. Most of these funds were then deposited into the Bank First account.

After a third-party computer company employed by the law firm investigated the wire transfer, the firm discovered that the wire transfer had been sent to the fraud perpetrator rather than the client and contacted law enforcement.

“Victims of fraud often feel embarrassed or ashamed that they were victimized, and often fail to report the crime, fearing that they will appear foolish,” U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca said. “In reality, it is the perpetrators of the fraud who should be ashamed. Victims should know that people from all walks of life fall victim to criminals using a variety of methods to trick people and steal their money.”

The victim filed a claim in the civil forfeiture proceeding and filed a subsequent answer, in which it explained that the victim had fallen prey to a fraud scheme. The U.S. Attorney’s Office validated the victim’s claim and asked the court to enter a final judgment ordering the return of the funds to the victim and canceling the interests of any other person or entity.

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