Australian police have arrested a 43-year-old Nigerian man who masterminded a $3 million dollar email fraud from inside an immigration detention centre in Sydney.
Fisayo Oluwafemi headed the con ring from inside Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre, which sent fake messages that claimed to be from trusted companies, according to New South Wales Police.
The alleged ring netted more than A$3m (£1.6; $2.2m) The money had been transferred to unknown recipients in Nigeria and was unlikely to be recovered, said Supt Arthur Katsogiannis.
Police seized 16 mobile phones, numerous SIM cards, identification information, and various electronic storage devices on Thursday, September 14.
Oluwafemi was taken to Bankstown Police Station after Strike Force Woolana investigators, assisted by Australian Border Force, searched the detention centre. He was refused bail and is due to appear in Bankstown local court on Friday.
Three other people, a man, 20, and two women, 20 and 36, were charged over the alleged crimes, which included identity theft and romance scams.
Harriette Bangura, 36, who is accused of working with Mr Oluwafemi, was arrested by the strike force on September 4. She has been charged with 11 counts of knowingly dealing with the proceeds of crime.
The woman’s Land Rover was also seized from a car park at St Mary’s, which police believe was purchased with criminal proceeds.
Ms Bangura was granted strict conditional bail to reappear at Downing Centre Local Court on November. Police will allege in court she was involved in the laundering of more than $480,000 under Oluwafemi’s alleged scam racket.
Another man and woman, both 20, were on September 5, at the Chester Hill property.
The pair are accused of working with Mr Oluwafemi.
The 20-year-old man was charged with seven counts of recklessly dealing with the proceeds of crime, possess identity information with intent to commit an indictable offence and possess drug implement. Police attest he was involved in the syndicate and laundered $90,000.
Police allege the 20-year-old woman laundered $17,000 fraudulently under Oluwafemi’s alleged scam racket.
The two were granted strict conditional bail and are due to appear at Parramatta Local Court on October 2.
Strike Force Woolana was established to investigate organised criminal syndicates involved in fraudulent activities.
Supt Katsogiannis said that Australian police and global law enforcement agencies would continue investigations to try to track down the money.
He urged companies to improve their cyber security, and be wary of suspicious requests to transfer funds.
“While there are many variables, generally, the perpetrators will ‘spoof’ or compromise corporate executive or employee email accounts and send email requests to an accounts payable employee for an electronic funds transfer,” Supt Katsogiannis said.
Villawood Immigration Detention Centre is a high-security facility that can hold up to 600 people.
It was accommodating 450 people from more than 60 countries in April last year, according to an Australian Human Rights Commission report.
Most had either had their visas cancelled, not complied with visa conditions, or were seeking asylum, the report said.