Crime

Two Miami residents laundered nearly $1 million stolen in internet scams, DOJ says

Yamel Tamayo, 36, and Yumeydi Govantes, 39, are accused of recruiting people who laundered more than $950,000 generated from business email compromise schemes. These scams have swindled more than $26 billion worldwide.
Yamel Tamayo, 36, and Yumeydi Govantes, 39, are accused of recruiting people who laundered more than $950,000 generated from business email compromise schemes. These scams have swindled more than $26 billion worldwide.

Two Miami residents face federal money-laundering charges for their alleged involvement in a scam that stole nearly $1 million, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Yamel Tamayo, 36, and Yumeydi Govantes, 39, are accused of recruiting numerous people who laundered more than $950,000 generated from schemes generally referred to as business email compromise schemes, because they trick businesses and individuals into wiring money to criminals.

“Homeland Security Investigations, together with its law enforcement partners, has proven once again, that cyber-enabled financial fraud will not be tolerated in the United States,” said Matthew T. Albence, acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Court records suggest the duo had 18 people cleaning funds for an international money-laundering network between November 2016 and June 2019. They did so using their separate, South Florida-based shell companies: Yumeydi Quality Products Inc. in Homestead and YGT Buying Inc. in Miami, according to those records.

Tamayo and Govantes were among 281 people arrested worldwide on various charges stemming from Operation reWired, a four-month investigation that involved multiple local and foreign agencies. Of the arrests, 74 were in the United States and 207 were overseas.

“Cooperation is the backbone to effective law enforcement; without it, we aren’t as strong or as agile as we need to be,” FBI director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Through Operation reWired, we’re sending a clear message to the criminals who orchestrate these [business email compromise] schemes: We’ll keep coming after you, no matter where you are.”

Business email compromise schemes, also called “cyber-enabled financial fraud,” primarily target employees with access to company finances or businesses that rely heavily on wire transfer payments, according to the DOJ. These schemes took a variety of forms: “lottery scams” that tricked people into paying fees before receiving a payment, “romance scams” that swindled individuals into sending money to help a significant other with a business transaction or “rental sale” that involved fraudulent requests for checks.

Between June 2016 and July 2019, these scams have swindled more than $26 billion worldwide, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Court documents show Tamayo and Govantes were arrested in June. Their plea hearing is set for Sept. 16.

If convicted, both could serve at least 20 years in prison.

C. Isaiah Smalls II is a reporter covering breaking and trending news for the Miami Herald. Previously, he worked for ESPN’s The Undefeated as part of their inaugural class of Rhoden Fellows. He is a graduate of both Columbia University and Morehouse College.
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