Federal agents say a Nigerian man stole $27 million from a Citibank account in Manhattan held by the National Bank of Ethopia.
A Nigerian man has been charged with trying to swindle nearly $27 million from an account in New York held by Ethiopia's central bank.
Paul Gabriel Amos, 37, worked the scheme by sending fake documents to a Citibank in New York where the National Bank of Ethiopia kept funds, purporting to authorize money transfers to accounts that he and co-conspirators controlled, according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York.
Amos pleaded not guilty on Friday in Federal District Court in Manhattan to one count of conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. He had been living in Singapore and was arrested last month as he tried to enter the U.S., prosecutors said.
A spokesman for the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington told the New York Times: "We are aware of this unfortunate story." He would not comment further.
Amos and his co-conspirators made wire transfers to accounts in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Australia, China, Cyprus and the U.S., federal prosecutors said. It was a variation on a very common scheme where someone overseas tries to access a person's bank account.
The fraud was uncovered after banks where the conspirators held accounts returned money to the Citibank because they had been unable to process the transactions, and the National Bank of Ethiopia didn't recognize the transactions, according to a complaint signed by Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Bryan Trebelhorn.
A spokeswoman for Citigroup, the parent company of Citibank told the Times the company had worked with law enforcement on the case and was pleased with the arrest. "Citi constantly reviews and upgrades its physical, electronic and procedural safeguards to detect, prevent and mitigate theft."