Police: Email scam costs Garden City man down payment meant for his first home
People spend years struggling to save up for their dream home. When they finally have enough for a down payment, that money can disappear with the click of a button.
Eager homebuyers are becoming the latest victims of email scams. It cost one Garden City man a down payment meant for his first home.
The victim sent a wire transfer of $45,000 to a person he thought was his real estate attorney. However, that money instead went to criminals overseas.
The suspects hacked into the real estate attorney's email account. Once in, they used the emails to trick the victim into wiring them money. The first-time homebuyer had no idea until it was too late.
Garden City police subpoenaed bank records and traced the crime back to the suspects, including a Maryland man with ties to Nigeria. When confronted by detectives, Emeka Ndukwu, 50, confessed to the crime, according to court records.
"I got involved in a scam with some people from Nigeria and I was making money," Ndukwu wrote in his voluntary statement to police. "The people in Nigeria take over people's emails who are in some kind of agreement to exchange money. They act like they are one of the people in the agreement and have the money sent to a totally different account. That is where I come in. I get people with valid bank accounts so the wires can be sent directly to that account. The account owner would get around 10%. I would get around 4-5% and the rest gets sent back to the people in Nigeria."
Ndukwu turned himself in to Garden City police on Sept. 30. He has been charged with grand larceny in the third degree.
The case is now going before a grand jury and more people could face charges. Law enforcement officials said these types of email scams are becoming more prevalent.
"Usually, it takes so long to track them down and they're gone with the money before we can get there," said Nassau County District Attorney Anne Donnelly. "In this particular case, we were able to track down the scammer and make an arrest."
Cyber security experts warn that these email scams look so close to the real thing, they can be nearly impossible to detect. They advise potential homebuyers to first call the person requesting their money before sending a large transaction.
"Just by looking at an email, you cannot recognize a sophisticated attack," said Kees Leune, assistant professor and information security officer at Adelphi University. "When you say, 'This will really hurt if I lose this amount of money,' you probably want to take a few extra steps to make sure that it goes to the right place."
Ndukwu's case has been adjourned to Nov. 9 at the Nassau County Courthouse.
If you believe you are a victim, contact your local police department or the Nassau County district attorney's office.