He had admitted to never working a day in his life and colluded with organised hackers in the UK and internationally to launder stolen money
Aiyegbusi had previously pleaded guilty to five separate counts of money laundering, totalling £41,150; possession with intent to supply Class A drugs (crack cocaine) and Class B drugs (cannabis). He was also sentenced today for the crack cocaine and cannabis supply – both of these additional matters also having been investigated by the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit.
He pleaded not guilty to three counts of money laundering totalling £2,167,410 and was subsequently found not guilty in relation to these other counts following a trial at Southwark Crown Court in December 2019.
During the trial, the court heard that prior to his arrest by the Met’s Cyber Crime Unit for the money laundering offences, Aiyegbusi had been stopped by officers from Essex Police in Colchester and found to be in possession of 49 rocks of crack cocaine.
When he was in custody and Met officers were investigating him for the cyber-crime offences, they were able to gain access to other mobile phones controlled by him, which contained evidence to illustrate his involvement in the county lines supply of class A drugs.
The Facebook account was being used to advertise compromised online bank accounts, with the username and password often having been acquired through cyber-dependent crime such as ‘phishing’. Other Facebook postings from Aiyegbusi advertised the ‘cashing out’ of online banking fraud. The Facebook account was identified by the Cyber Defence Alliance (CDA) in 2018, who subsequently provided intelligence about the activity to the Cyber Crime Unit.
Further investigation revealed that the Facebook account was opened in 2015 and contained requests for banks accounts or credit / debit cards for use in fraud. The Facebook profile contained photos of compromised online bank accounts being emptied of funds, plus videos of cash, expensive watches and cars. Aiyegbusi would use these posts to attract other individuals to provide use of their bank account to him, which he would use as ‘mule’ accounts to receive and cash-out the proceeds of his online fraud operation.
A covert operation was launched by the investigative team, under the name of Operation Katoko, with a variety of proactive investigative techniques being used to identify Aiyegbusi and gather evidence of the criminality that was taking place. This identified a number of posts where there were opportunities to identify victims of the frauds that Mr Aiyegbusi had either committed, or had been instrumental in requesting bank accounts to cash out frauds. A partnership approach was taken with a number of banks in the private sector that collaborated with the Met to provide assistance with its covert proactive response. These included TSB and Barclays. Between July 2017 and January 2019, officers were able to identify nine victims. It is believed that the actual number of accounts and victims targeted by Aiyegbusi could have been far higher, with hundreds of potential victims across the country.
By June 2019, the investigative team had gathered substantial evidence against Aiyegbusi, and on 26 June 2019 he was tracked to an address in Luton, where he was arrested.
When officers searched the property and a vehicle, large amounts of cannabis as well as electronic devices, which contained incriminating evidence of Aiyegbusi’s crimes were recovered, in addition to a large number of black plastic tubes that also contained cannabis. Evidence recovered by the Met’s CCU indicated that Aiyegbusi was involved in the organised supply of cannabis, which led to him pleading guilty to an indictment of possession with intent to supply class B drugs (cannabis).
He was taken into custody and was charged later that date (26 June) with eight counts of money laundering, all of which related to monies obtained from cyber-related fraud committed against members of the public who had online bank accounts, possession with intent to supply Class A drugs (cocaine from the Essex investigation) and possession with intent to supply class B drugs (cannabis).
“Aiyegbusi didn’t have a care in the world as he stole people’s hard-earned cash and then flaunted it all over social media to boost his ego and brag about it.”
“Aiyegbusi admitted in court that he had never worked a day in his life, instead acquiring huge sums of money from innocent members of the public, through large-scale cyber-enabled fraud committed across the UK banking sector.”
“I would like to thank our partners in the banking sector and the Cyber Defence Alliance for their support and assistance during this investigation.”
One of Aiygebusi’s victims, who is 80-years old, said: “I was so pleased to hear the good news, as it has caused me and my husband a lot of stress and worry.
“I would receive numerous telephone calls from someone purporting to be from a telephone company saying there is a fault. I’ve been too scared to answer the phone in case the same thing happens again.”
A Barclays spokesperson said: “We continue to be committed to supporting law enforcement in its efforts to combat criminality and protect customers’ funds.
“We worked with the Metropolitan Police Service during its investigation and welcome the outcome of the proceedings.”
Cyber Defence Alliance CEO, Steve Wilson, said: “Op Katoko is an excellent example of industry and Law Enforcement working closely together to protect customers and target those individuals who commit organised cyber crime and money muling offences.
“The Cyber Defence Alliance were able to coordinate the investigation from UK banking sector members and provide our partners in the Metropolitan Police with actionable intelligence to build a case leading to the arrest of a prolific criminal who believed he could act with complete impunity.”
Ashley Hart, Head of Fraud at TSB Bank PLC, said: “We are proud of TSB’s close working relationship with the Metropolitan Police Service, which in this case has taken a determined criminal off the streets. TSB will always use every possible means to hunt down fraudsters that threaten our customers, and bring them to justice, as part of our Prevent, Protect, Pursue fraud strategy”.