The duo, accused of conspiring with many others to defraud the U.S. government by stealing identities to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits, face a total of 18 charges.
Two Nigerians have been arrested in the United States for wire fraud and other offences involving $25,000 in unemployment benefits, PREMIUM TIMES reports.
Olushola Afolabi and Olugbeminiyi Aderibigbe were accused of conspiring with others to defraud the Illinois Department of Employment Security and the United States government through fraudulent unemployment insurance claims.
They and their alleged co-conspirators used stolen identities to file unemployment insurance claims and transferred millions of dollars in unemployment benefits into bank accounts controlled by them, the U.S. government said in the indictment filed against them.
“Using the funds in those bank accounts, members of the conspiracy purchased money orders or withdrew cash at locations across the Northern District of Alabama and elsewhere,” their indictment already approved by a grand jury and filed at a U.S. District Court in Northern Alabama, reads in part.
The alleged fraud was perpetrated from October 2020 to June 29, 2021 when the indictment was filed, the indictment, signed by an unnamed representative of the grand jury and an Assistant U.S. Attorney, Jonathan Harrington, also reads partly.
Of the millions of dollars allegedly transferred by the conspirators, about $25,000 was directly linked to Messrs Afolabi and Aderibigbe.
The transfers of about $18,000 between December 7, 2020, and February 24, 2021, were linked to Mr Afolabi, and the balance of about $7,000 was allegedly transferred by Mr Aderibigbe between December 29, 2020, and January 8, 2021.
How alleged fraud was perpetrated
The U.S. government said the two defendants entered into a conspiracy with many unknown others with the objective “to steal unemployment insurance benefits”.
“As part of the conspiracy, unknown members of the conspiracy would and did file for state and federal unemployment insurance benefits through the Illinois Department of Employment Security website using stolen or otherwise fraudulent identities,” the document said.
Unknown members of the conspiracy would and did establish several Green Dot bank accounts into which the fraudulently obtained state and federal unemployment benefits would be wired on a periodic basis.
The conspirators including, Messrs Afolabi and Aderibigbe, were then said to have travelled to Alabama and elsewhere for the purpose of using Green Dot access device cards to purchase money orders or withdraw cash at Walmart and other retail locations in the Northern District of Alabama and elsewhere.
“It was part of the scheme and artifice that Defendants AFOLABI and ADERIBIGBE used fraudulently obtained Green Dot cards loaded with fraudulently obtained state and federal unemployment insurance funds to purchase money orders or withdraw cash at Walmart locations in the Northern District of Alabama and elsewhere,” the document added.
The grand jury said, in the indictment, that if the defendants are found guilty of the said offences, they stand to forfeit to the United States any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offences, according to the United States Code, Section 1029 (a) (2).
“Indictment, the defendants, OLUSHOLA ADEWOLE AFOLABI and OLUGBEMINIYI ADERIBIGBE, shall forfeit to the United States any and all property constituting, or derived from, proceeds the defendants obtained directly or indirectly, as a result of the commission of said offences, including but not limited to a sum of money in United States currency representing the amount of proceeds traceable to the commission of said offenses.
“Additionally, upon conviction of any offences information of Title18, United States Code, Section 1029 (a) (2) outlined in counts 13 through 18 of this Indictment, the defendants, OLUSHOLA ADEWOLE AFOLABI and OLUGBEMINIYI ADERIBIGBE, shall forfeit to the United States any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offences.
A preliminary arraignment of the defendants had held before a magistrate judge, Gray Borden, on July 27.
They both pleaded guilty and would likely be tried before a district judge at a later time.
At the July 27 proceedings, the magistrate judge granted a $5,000 bail to each of them.
Defence lawyers were also appointed for them.
Robin Robertson was appointed to defend Mr Afolabi, and Courteney Murtha was appointed to defend Mr Aderibigbe.
Nigerians caught for fraud in U.S., U.K.
The arrest of Messrs Afolabi and Aderibigbe comes as part of the latest episodes of many Nigerians being linked to internet fraud in the U.S.
In a similar case, a suspended aide of Governor Dapo Abidun of Ogun State, Abidemi Rufai, was arrested while trying to jet out of the U.S. on May 14 for allegedly using the identities of more than 100 Washington residents to steal more than $350,000 in unemployment benefits from the Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD) during the COVID-19 pandemic last year.
He is also facing charges in Washington.
Similarly, a former Nigerian Instagram celebrity Abbas Ramon popularly knowns as Hushpuppi has also agreed to plead guilty to multi-million-dollar money laundering involving proceeds of internet fraud.
In a separate case recently unveiled by the U.S. government, a celebrated Nigerian police officer, Abba Kyari was named as a conspirator in one of the fraudulent schemes allegedly spearheaded by Hushpuppi.
Mr Kyari, a deputy commissioner of police was named along with five others as conspirators in the scheme that was said to have defrauded a Qatari business person of $1.1 million.
He was said to have been recruited by Hushpuppi to arrest one of the ringleaders in order to prevent him from leaking information about the fraud to the victim businessperson.
Mr Kyari, who is the head of the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), a special tactical unit of the police force, has denied any wrongdoing.
He was however suspended by the Police Service Commission (PSC) to face a four-man investigating team set up by the Inspector-General of Police.
Earlier in March, two Nigerians, Timilehin Olasemo, 39, and Olufumi Akinneye, 33, were jailed in the United Kingdom (U.K.) for defrauding the government to the tune of £489,000 under the coronavirus relief “Bounce Back loan” scheme.
Also on February 16, Obinwanne Okeke, widely known as Invictus Obi, was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment for wire fraud by a court in the Eastern District of Virginia.
The 33-year-old Nigerian, formerly celebrated internationally as a successful young African entrepreneur, was arrested in the U.S. on August 6, 2019.
He subsequently pleaded guilty to the offence of conspiracy to commit wire fraud last year June.
Mr Okeke was celebrated by Forbes African magazine as one of the 30 under-30 successful entrepreneurs on the continent in 2016, when he was only 28.
U.S. authorities said victims lost nearly $11million (about N4billion) to the large-scale fraud perpetrated through global business email and computer hacking schemes between 2015 and 2019.
Do you find Netxclusive useful? Click here to give us five stars rating!
No one has commented yet. Be the first!