Brighton-Le-Sands man charged over million-dollar email scam

A West Lidcombe woman and a Brighton-Le-Sands man have been charged in relation to a million-dollar email scam. Picture: NSW Police
A West Lidcombe woman and a Brighton-Le-Sands man have been charged in relation to a million-dollar email scam. Picture: NSW Police

A Brighton-Le-Sands man has been charged over alleged email scams, which netted more than $2.1 million.

Detectives from the State Crime Command's Cybercrime Squad established Strike Force Cabernet in 2017 to investigate organised criminal groups involved in large-scale business email compromises.

Early last year, strike force investigators received reports relating to fraudulent emails from a company employee providing new instructions to another company for the payment of invoices or fees.

The first report stated the finance department of a construction company received an email from a person purporting to be an employee of a contractor providing new banking details for future remittances.

An invoice to the value of almost $1.4 million was subsequently paid into the account.

Police will allege in court that the account was accessed with some funds sent offshore, about $30,000 used to purchase a vehicle, and the remainder transferred into another account.

A second report stated a college received an email from a person purporting to be the finance contact of a building contractor, who supplied new banking details.

A payment of more than $700,000 was later paid into the account.

Police will allege in court that the account was accessed and $600,000 was sent offshore.

As part of their inquiries, strike force detectives, assisted by Central Metropolitan Region's Odin, executed a search warrant at a Brighton Le-Sands home just after 3pm yesterday.

During the search, police seized various documentation.

A 57-year-old man was arrested after arriving at the home about 4.30pm.

He was taken to Kogarah Police Station and charged with recklessly deal with proceeds of crime.

He was granted strict conditional bail and is due to appear at Sutherland Local Court on April 9..

Detectives also executed a search warrant at a home at West Lidcombe just after 8.30am on Thursday.

During the search, police seized 10 mobile phones, seven SIM cards, computer tablets, a computer, three laptops, numerous electronic storage devices, banking documentation, nunchakus, swords, knives, and cannabis.

A 47-year-old woman was arrested at the home and taken to Auburn Police Station, where she was charged with two counts of knowingly deal with the proceeds of crime.

She was refused bail and appeared at Burwood Local Court yesterday where she was granted strict conditional bail to re-appear at the same court on May 8.

Cybercrime Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Matt Craft, said business email compromises are on the rise as more and more businesses move to complete electronic accounting systems.

"These types of scams are somewhat complex to execute, but very simple to prevent through education and the development of standard procedures for accounting staff," Det Supt Craft said.

"While there are many variations of the scam, in general terms, it involves a 'spoofed' or compromised email account of a corporate executive or employee, which is used to send email requests to accounts payable employees to change banking details for receipt of payments.

"Many of these scams are quite sophisticated, but there is almost always a 'tell'; we urge all businesses to ensure their accounts teams are vigilant when dealing with requests to vary account details or payment methods.

"The most important advice we can provide is for staff to be suspicious about these types of requests and take the time to verify the authenticity of the email, whether it be via phone or a fresh email."

Det Supt Craft added that the key to protecting your business is a thorough review of internal practices and regular communication.

Reports of online fraud can be made to the Police Assistance Line on 131 444 or to local police.

Investigations under Strike Force Cabernet are ongoing.