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Fla. Man Found Guilty in Email Closing Scam

In an “email compromise scheme,” a Miami Gardens man monitored business emails, changed wiring instructions at the last minute, and stole almost $400K in closing money.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal jury convicted a Florida man who operated a “business email compromise scheme” (BEC) that stole more than $1 million in closing proceeds by changing legitimate wiring instructions to a new location, called a “money mule bank account.”

According to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, a federal jury convicted Pierre Yvelt Almonor, 49, of Miami Gardens, Florida, for his role in a conspiracy to launder illegal proceeds from a business email compromise scheme.

Almonor defrauded law firms and other companies, says Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Almonor’s money-laundering conviction covered conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering, international concealment money laundering, and transactional money laundering.

In announcing the conviction, King was joined by Robert R. Wells, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division.

A BEC is a sophisticated scam that often targets businesses involved in wire transfer payments. The criminals often “spoof” an email address or gain access to a legitimate one by stealing passwords.

A criminal working a real estate case, for example, might get the password used by a title company and monitor the back-and-forth emails with homebuyers. When it becomes time for the buyer to wire a deposit or closing money, the criminal then uses that email access to change the address for the wire transfer. The legitimate company never sees the money because the scammer’s instructions send it to their own account.

The trial included witness testimony and documents filed with the court. According to records from August 2014 through November 2017, Almonor arranged to have nearly $395,000 in real estate closing proceeds stolen through a BEC deposited in a business account over which he exercised control, utilizing it as a “money mule” bank account. Fraudsters use money mule bank accounts as a way to move fraudulently obtained funds.

Almonor then sent money via wires to Spain and South Africa totaling more than $200,000 and withdrew more than $50,000 in proceeds as compensation for his role in the conspiracy.

Almonor remains on bail pending sentencing, and a sentencing date has not been set. The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the proceeds.

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