Four men of Nigerian origin have been named in an $18 million fraud case in the United States, the Department of Justice said in a statement, adding that the fraud was carried out in more than 100 transactions. The men – Oladayo Oladoku, Farouk Kukoyi, Baldwin Osuji and Henry Ogbuokiri – were among a 15-man gang that the DOJ said defrauded individual and businesses through identity thefts, opening fictitious bank accounts, and depositing stolen checks – or conning victims to wire funds – into those accounts.
10 other members of the syndicate were on the run with one other member was in “state custody”.
The 11 other suspects include Joshua Hicks, Anthony Lee Nelson, Derrick Banks, Ibrahiima Doukoure, Jamar Skeete, Paul Yaw Osei Jr., Kowan Poole, Darrel Williams, Daryl Bartley, Garnet Steven Murray-Sesay, aka “Steven Garnet Murray-Sesay,” and Andrew Heaven.
All the suspects, Oladokun, 46, Kukoyi, 33, Osuji, 31, Ogbuokiri, 32, Hicks, 24, Nelson, 28, Banks, 27, Doukoure, 61, Skeete, 36, Osei, 32, Poole, 29, Williams, 62, Bartley, 58, Murray-Sesay, 35, and Heaven, 49 were charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, which carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Seven of them – Ogbuokiri, Hicks, Banks, Poole, Williams, Bartley, And Murray-Sesay – were also charged with aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.
“As alleged in the criminal complaint, these 15 defendants used an elaborate bank and wire fraud scheme to steal over $18 million from victims,” Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said. HSI New York will continue to work tirelessly to investigate criminals who target our citizens. Through our law enforcement partnerships, to include the NYPD, USPIS and USSS as well as the prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, HSI will work to help maintain the integrity of our financial systems.”
According to a statement released by the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, the unsealing of the criminal complaint charging the 15 defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud was announced on Tuesday. The statement said four defendants were arrested Tuesday in the District of Maryland, the District of Columbia, and the Eastern District of Virginia, and were presented in those districts’ federal courts. Noting that one defendant is in state custody and will be presented at a later date, it said 10 defendants remained at large.
It said the $18 million fraud scheme consisted of three key phases. Explaining how the fraudulent scheme was perpetrated, the statement said members of the conspiracy opened more than 60 business bank accounts using the real personal identifying information, including names and social security numbers, of identity theft victims.
The members of the conspiracy now move to the next stage which involves depositing money into these bank accounts that they obtained by defrauding victims. In the third stage of the scheme, members of the conspiracy accessed the fraud proceeds by transferring the proceeds into other bank accounts or by withdrawing cash.
According to the statement, “members of the conspiracy typically defrauded their victims in one of two ways. In some instances, members of the conspiracy deposited stolen or forged checks. For example, members of the conspiracy obtained three checks that had been mailed by a national sports league from New York, New York, and deposited those stolen checks into bank accounts that were opened in the names of the intended recipients. In other instances, members of the conspiracy deceived victims into making electronic transfers. For example, a member of the conspiracy posing as a victim’s financial adviser caused the victim to wire money from a bank branch in New York, New York, to a bank account controlled by members of the conspiracy. “
It added that to date, law enforcement had identified more than 100 fraudulent transactions in furtherance of the scheme, totaling more than $18 million. Quoting U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman, the statement said: “As alleged, these defendants conspired to steal millions of dollars by stealing identities, opening fictitious bank accounts, and depositing stolen checks – or conning victims to wire funds – into those accounts. All told, as alleged, the scheme netted more than $18 million and victimized numerous individuals and businesses. Thanks to the combined efforts of our law enforcement partners, the game is up.”
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said: “This case shows that as criminals move into the areas of cyber-related frauds, law enforcement is following. I want to thank the members of the NYPD’s Financial Crimes Task Force, working alongside our federal partners and prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s office, in the Southern District, for their success today in this important investigation.”
USPIS Inspector-in-Charge Philip R. Bartlett said: “This Case is an excellent example of interagency cooperation and collaboration. Those who choose to break the law will be swiftly brought to justice to answer for their crimes.” USSS Assistant Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick Freaney said: “The success of this investigation illustrates the commitment of the U.S. Secret Service in working with our law enforcement partners to confront the continued threat of cyber enabled financial crimes. The Secret Service remains dedicated in actively pursuing those whose actions threaten the financial security of individuals, businesses, and the financial infrastructure of the United States.”
HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Peter C. Fitzhugh said: “As alleged in the criminal complaint, these 15 defendants used an elaborate bank and wire fraud scheme to steal over $18 million from victim. HSI New York will continue to work tirelessly to investigate criminals who target our citizens. Through our law enforcement partnerships, to include the NYPD, USPIS and USSS as well as the prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, HSI will work to help maintain the integrity of our financial systems.”
Berman praised the outstanding work of the Financial Crimes Task Force of the NYPD and the USSS, the Mail Theft Team of the USPIS, and the Dark Web and Crypto Currency Group of HSI. He also thanked the Washington Field Office of the USSS for its assistance in the apprehension of the defendants. Assistant United States Attorney Alexander Li is in charge of the prosecution of the case which is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.
In another development, an Accra-based Nigerian, Babatunde Martins, 64, has been extradited to the United States to stand trial for wire fraud, money laundering, computer fraud and aggravated identity theft following an indictment by a federal grand jury. Five other individuals have pleaded guilty to being involved in the scheme, including another Nigerian, Olufalojimi Abegunde, 33, who was sentenced to six-and-half years in prison, a statement by the US Department of Justice said. The statement said Assistant Attorney General Brian A Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney D. Michael Dunavant of the Western District of Tennessee, and Special Agent in Charge M.A. Myers of the FBI’s Memphis Field Office made the announcement.