Los Angeles, California - A New York man was sentenced Monday to 46 months in federal prison for participating in business email compromise (BEC) scams, including one in which $420,000 was stolen from a victim’s life insurance account, then deposited and laundered in various bank accounts set up in the names of other people.

Sunday Anyika, 56, of Brooklyn, New York, was sentenced by United States District Judge John F. Walter, who also ordered him to pay $1,129,515 in restitution. Anyika pleaded guilty on January 26 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. At today’s hearing, Judge Walter called the BEC scheme “malicious and extensive” and stated it caused “huge losses to unsuspecting victims.”

In January 2018, Anyika’s co-conspirators, using the victim’s life insurance policy number, Social Security number, and date of birth to verify the account, called a business – identified in court documents as “Company A” – to obtain details on a life insurance policy under a victim’s name. Later that month, Anyika, using a fake Liberian passport sent by his co-conspirators that bore his photograph, opened and maintained sole control over a TD Bank account that used the victim’s name.

In February 2018, one of Anyika’s co-conspirators fraudulently and without authorization caused Company A to wire $420,000 from the victim’s life insurance policy account to the same TD Bank account under Anyika’s control. Within weeks, Anyika transferred the ill-gotten funds traceable to the victim’s life insurance account to other bank accounts that he controlled – including one in Hong Kong – that were opened using the names of other people.

One of Anyika’s co-conspirators, in March 2018, fraudulently and without authorization, requested cancellation of the victim’s life insurance policy with Company A and directed that the remaining funds in the account be wired to the TD Bank account that Anyika had opened two months earlier, but mistakenly ordered the check to be sent to the victim. As a result of the co-conspirator’s fraudulent cancellation request, Company A cancelled the victim’s life insurance policy and mailed the victim a check for approximately $761,355 in an envelope addressed to the victim’s office in Bell.

Anyika admitted in his plea agreement that his co-conspirators committed other BEC scams, including deceiving a law firm into wiring approximately $400,802 in client settlement money to a bank account under Anyika’s control. The wire was unable to be recalled and the law firm ended up losing the settlement money.

Anyika further admitted to participating in other such scams, including bilking a toy company out of $135,125 when one of his co-conspirators sent the company a series of emails with specific instructions that tricked it into wiring invoice payments to a bank account Anyika controlled. The account had been opened by Anyika using the same fake Liberian passport he used previously.

The co-conspirators further defrauded a construction company and a chemical distributor via fake emails masquerading as a subcontractor and supplier, respectively, that requested payments, according to court documents. The construction company was tricked into wiring approximately $158,113, and the chemical distributor was deceived into sending two payments totaling approximately $117,608 to bank accounts opened and controlled by Anyika.

Anyika admitted to knowing that the funds deposited by his co-conspirators into accounts he controlled were obtained and sent to him as part of the fraudulent conspiracy. As his share of the proceeds of the conspiracy, Anyika personally retained at least approximately $150,000. The co-conspirators remain at large.

The FBI investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorney Scott Paetty of the Major Frauds Section prosecuted this case.