Mustapha Raji, a member of an international fraud ring, has been sentenced to three years in prison by U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman. The sentencing comes after Raji’s participation in a complex $1.7 million business email compromise and money laundering scheme that targeted a Manhattan hedge fund.
The announcement was made by Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who emphasized the severity of Raji’s crimes. Raji had previously been found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, receipt of stolen property, and conspiracy to commit money laundering after a one-week jury trial.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams stated, “Today’s sentencing of Mustapha Raji should send a clear message that email scams targeting businesses in this District will not be tolerated. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to zealously prosecute online scammers abroad and the U.S.-based money launderers they work with to protect American businesses.”
The indictment, public filings, and evidence presented at trial revealed that Raji was an integral part of an international fraud ring that conducted phishing and email fraud campaigns. In one instance in April 2017, Raji’s company received over $100,000 from another corporate entity that had itself received nearly $2 million in stolen funds from a public university in Oregon. This fraudulent transfer occurred due to a sophisticated deception, where the university was misled into sending the payment to an account controlled by one of Raji’s co-conspirators instead of the intended legitimate vendor.
Furthermore, Raji was involved in compromising the business email account of a New York hedge fund founder in July 2018. This breach led to a fraudulent diversion of $1.7 million from the hedge fund to a corporate bank account linked to the scheme. Raji not only received the stolen funds but also falsified documents to cover up the transaction. He directed a co-conspirator to launder the stolen money to various recipients both within the United States and overseas, pocketing a $50,000 share for his involvement.
Similar fraudulent activities continued, including a scheme in May 2018 where a Missouri hospital system fell victim to a business email compromise. Unauthorized emails were sent under the guise of the hospital’s CFO, leading to payments of over $250,000 being sent directly to an account controlled by Raji’s company.
Even in the face of legal repercussions, Raji remained undeterred. When approached by a cooperating witness in 2019 about a new fraud scheme involving the theft of $2.3 million, Raji willingly agreed to participate and provided wire instructions for the illicit transfer.
In addition to his prison term, 53-year-old Mustapha Raji of Hollywood, Florida, has been sentenced to three years of supervised release. He has also been ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $711,557.54 and forfeit an equivalent sum.
The successful prosecution in this case owes much to the diligent investigative efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit, led by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Catherine Ghosh, Jilan Kamal, Dina McLeod, and Robert B. Sobelman, played a pivotal role in pursuing justice in this complex case.