Nassau prosecutors on Friday warned residents to be wary of email scams in the wake of a Maryland man’s recent arrest for allegedly stealing $45,000 from a Garden City resident who wired money to someone he believed was his real estate attorney.
Emeka Ndukwu, 50, of Lanham, Maryland, is facing a felony grand larceny charge after authorities said he teamed up with others to bilk the young homebuyer.
Last October, the victim sent two electronic wire transfers totaling $45,000 to someone he thought was his attorney, according to the Nassau District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors have alleged Ndukwu, acting with two other people, recruited someone else to receive the $45,000 in a fake escrow account before stealing the proceeds.
Ndukwu, who has dual U.S. and Nigerian citizenship, is facing up to 2-1/3 to 7 years in prison if convicted, according to authorities.
They said Ndukwu appeared in a Hempstead court for arraignment last week after surrendering to the Garden City Police Department and is free on his own recognizance while awaiting trial.
Ndukwu’s attorney, Steven Barnwell, confirmed Friday that his client had pleaded not guilty but declined to comment further on the case.
“Across the United States, we’re seeing an epidemic of email scams targeting people who transfer large sums of money as part of their jobs or who are about to transfer money as part of an important life event, like buying a home,” Nassau District Attorney Anne Donnelly said in a statement Friday.
Donnelly’s office also offered tips for avoiding such email scams when wiring large amounts of money.
Among those tips was a recommendation to review email addresses for any deviations in the sender’s name or domain name and to make sure that account numbers or payment options haven’t changed.
Prosecutors also said to make a phone call to follow up on any emails or texts before sending any money, and to be sure to use previous contact information for the receiver — not information in the email chain — in case the chain was hacked.
People also should be aware of any changes in language or speech patterns, including grammatical mistakes, in communications requesting money.
Scammers emphasize urgency in asking for money, including by threatening that a deal may fall through without an immediate money transfer, prosecutors said.