Four Nigerians are among 15 suspects charged in the United States for participating in an elaborate $18 million fraud scheme.
The Nigerians are Oladayo Oladokun, Farouk Kukoyi, Baldwin Osuji and Henry Ogbuokiri. 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.
A statement released by the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of New York, said the unsealing of a criminal complaint charging the 15 defendants with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud was announced on Tuesday.
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.
“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.
All the suspects 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.
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.”
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 CryptoCurrency Group of HSI.
The 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.