Three Nigerian citizens are facing U.S. criminal charges over alleged scams that targeted construction contractors and public project owners. Prosecutors say the scams netted nearly $6 million and involved the defendants posing as five different contractors.

Officials extradited the individuals from the UK where they had been living, the U.S. Dept. of Justice announced Aug. 10. They are facing federal charges of wire fraud and related crimes in North Carolina, Texas and Virginia over the alleged scheme. 

To carry out the scam, prosecutors say the defendants obtained information about large construction projects, including the names of project owners, companies that won contracts and contract dollar amounts. 

They then registered website domain names similar to those of actual contractors. Using email addresses under false names from those domains, the individuals contacted employees of universities and other public agencies that had hired the contractors for projects. In the emails, they would direct the employees to wire a payment to a bank account they controlled. 

For example, prosecutors say one of the individuals registered the website, and used an email address from that domain to send payment instructions to an employee at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. Appalachian State had hired Rodgers Builders Inc., which is ranked No. 178 on ENR’s 2022 Top 400 Contractors list, to work on a project. 

But the company’s actual website is The university processed a payment of about $1.96 million to the fraudulent account as a result, court records show. 

In another case, a scammer used an email address from to contact Virginia Commonwealth University about payment for contractor Kjellstrom and Lee Inc., court records show. Kjellstrom and Lee’s actual website is The university then sent nearly $470,000 to the bogus bank account as a result. 

Neither contractor immediately replied to inquiries about the case. 

One of the individuals impersonated three different contractors in Texas, receiving wires from a county government for about $525,000, nearly $2 million from a Houston-area community college and about $888,000 from another county government, court records show. 

Oludayo Kolawole John Adeagbo aka John Edwards and John Dayo, 43, and Ikenna Echeazu aka Donald Smith and Donald Dodient, are each charged with wire fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and aggravated identity theft in the North Carolina case. W. Rob Heroy, an attorney representing Echeazu, said his client had pleaded not guilty. 

Adeagbo is also facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in the Texas case.

Olabanji Egbinola, 42, is facing charges of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the Virginia case. His attorney, Ben Beliles, said Olabanji will fight the charges.

“We believe the evidence will prove to be unreliable and utterly circumstantial,” Beliles said in a statement. 

Increasingly Common Scam

The alleged scheme is what is known as a “business email compromise” scam, according to the Justice Dept. It is one of the many types of scams targeting the construction industry and others, as ENR has previously reported.

The FBI says these scams have become more common in recent years, with actual and attempted losses increasing by 65% from July 2019 to December 2021. Investigators report more than 240,000 incidents between June 2016 and December 2021, with actual and attempted losses totaling more than $43 billion. 

The scams can include a request for a wire transfer or check, or sensitive information such as employee tax records. Earlier this year, the FBI reported an increase in similar scams that used virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, with some cases of scammers even using fake audio to instruct employees to transfer funds. 

The FBI offers recommendations to protect against these scams. Authorities say to not click on anything in an unsolicited email or text message asking you to update or verify account information.

Other recommendations include carefully examining email addresses and URLs, never opening email attachments from strangers, and when receiving a request to make an account update or for payment, look up the phone number and call it to verify the request is legitimate.