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Justice Department Arrests 74 in US, Overseas Fraud Scheme

FILE - The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington, July 14, 2009.
FILE - The exterior of the U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington, July 14, 2009.

The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday the arrests of 74 people in the United States and overseas for cyber-related financial fraud schemes targeting businesses and individuals, often senior citizens.

The perpetrators used business email compromise schemes to intercept or hijack wire transfers. According to authorities, the scammers would impersonate potential business and romantic partners and persuade the victims to wire money to bank accounts in the fraudsters' control.

Forty-two people were arrested in the United States and 29 others were detained in Nigeria where, according to the Justice Department, many so-called business email compromise scams originated. Three others were arrested in Canada, Mauritius and Poland.

"Fraudsters can rob people of their life's saving in a matter of minutes," U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. "We will continue to go on offense against fraudsters so the American people can have safety and peace of mind."

The arrests, carried out as part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Operation Wire Wire, began in January, according to the Justice Department. Investigators say they seized about $2.4 million during the operation. Another $14 million in fraudulent wire transfers were disrupted or recovered, according to the agency.

The operation was coordinated with the U.S. Homeland Security and Treasury departments, as well as the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

"We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners around the world to end these fraud schemes and protect the hard-earned assets of our citizens," FBI Director Christopher Wray said. "The public we serve deserves nothing less."

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