U.S. nabs Nigerians in $4.1 milllion bank fraud
Oyekanmi Oworu, 35, of Hyattsville, Maryland, pled guilty to bank fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft Friday.
United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay announced the guilty plea.
According to his guilty plea, Oworu conspired with codefendant Babtunde Ajibawo, 55, of Essex, United Kingdom, and others between February 2017 and July 2020 to fraudulently obtain checks made out to legitimate businesses, then fraudulently register shell companies to obtain state business certificates in the same or similar names as the legitimate businesses to which the checks were made payable.
To get an EIN for the fraudulent firm, the conspirators used the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Modernized Internet Employer Identification Number (EIN) and the fraudulently obtained social security numbers of genuine people.
On February 7, 2017, Oworu created a bank account in the identity of a real person at a victim financial institution and deposited a stolen check for $265,168.20 made payable to a legitimate firm. Following that, Oworu withdrew the funds.
Additionally, on November 20, 2018, Oworu used the means and identification of A.S, a real person, to open a bank account with a victim financial institution in the name of a legitimate firm.
Oworu deposited a stolen cheque for $58,713.50 made payable to the legitimate business after creating the account. Oworu was caught on video depositing the stolen cheque in Washington, D.C.
Oworu corresponded with co conspirators about the distribution of stolen proceeds, including the money he would earn for opening bogus bank accounts and depositing stolen checks, during the course of the defrauding operation.
On May 2, 2019, Oworu requested that Ajibawo wire him $3,000 and the rest to a co-conspirator in Fayetteville, Georgia.
Furthermore, as revealed in the Superseding Indictment, Oworu and his co-conspirators attempted to hide their illicit activities and elude law enforcement by transferring the fraud scheme to several jurisdictions. A significant portion of a fraudulent plan was carried out outside of the United States, notably in Nigeria.
In sum, Oworu and his co conspirators intended to defraud victim firms out of at least $4.1 million, lost at least $756,175.30, and compromised the personal information of more than 50 people.
On July 8, 2021, codefendant Ajibawo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conduct bank fraud and will be sentenced on December 8, 2021 at 10 a.m.
For conspiracy to commit bank fraud, Oworu faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, followed by up to five years of supervised release, as well as a mandatory two years in jail, which must be served concurrently with any other sentence for aggravated identity theft. Oworu will also be ordered to pay restitution as part of his plea agreement. The sentencing date has been set for March 10, 2022, at 9:15 a.m. by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron praised the investigation’s work by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Mr. Barron commended the case’s prosecutor, Assistant US Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Judson T. Mihok.