Ringleader In Two Credit Card Fraud Schemes Sentenced To Over 17 Years In Prison
Over 250 Victims Impacted by the Schemes
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte sentenced ringleader, Oluwaseun Sanya, age 28, of Beltsville, Maryland late on November 19, 2012, to 212 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for two separate credit card fraud schemes, one of which he committed while awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to the first scheme. Judge Messitte also ordered Sanya to pay restitution of $251,712.87 and entered a forfeiture order for the same amount. Sanya also forfeited a Range Rover and Maserati luxury sports car as part of this case.
The sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Kathy A. Michalko of the United States Secret Service – Washington Field Office; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
On July 31, 2012, Sanya pled guilty in federal court in Maryland to conspiring to commit access device fraud. Sanya admitted that, at least beginning in 2010, he oversaw a credit card skimming operation in which he recruited employees at restaurants and businesses to steal customer credit card information. The stolen data was then loaded onto gift cards, or encoded onto other credit or debit cards. These cards were used to buy merchandise at area businesses, and the merchandise was later returned in exchange for cash. Sanya’s actions in this scheme impacted 250 or more victims. Upon pleading guilty, Sanya was released from custody pending sentencing upon condition that he not commit any crimes.
However, Sanya admitted that while on release pending sentencing, he again committed credit card fraud and aggravated identity theft. Beginning in at least September 2012, Sanya drove Latasha Bufford, Chazokam Okoye and Shanese Crawford to stores along the east coast and directed them to use stolen credit card account numbers which were re-encoded onto counterfeit gift cards, to purchase legitimate gift cards. Security officials at the Wegman’s grocery store chain detected the fraudulent activity and internally circulated store security video of the women using the stolen credit card information to purchase gift cards.
On September 15, 2012, the women entered a Wegman’s store in Abingdon, Maryland, where they attempted to buy gift cards using several counterfeit credit cards at different registers throughout the store. A store theft prevention employee recognized the women and alerted law enforcement. The women traveled in a vehicle driven by Sanya to another Wegman’s store in the area, and upon leaving that store, were stopped by local law enforcement. Sanya encouraged the women to lie about their criminal activity, and falsely claimed to officers that he was in the midst of an undercover operation on behalf of federal law enforcement. Inside the vehicle, police officers seized roughly $11,000 worth of legitimate gift cards that the women had purchased at Sanya’s direction using 33 counterfeit credit cards, which were also seized. During the previous two weeks alone, at Sanya’s direction, the women had used counterfeit credit cards to make over $30,000 in additional fraudulent purchases. In addition, on September 15, 2012, Sanya possessed at least one stolen credit card number. Sanya was arrested and has been detained since that time.
Dimitria Limnios, age 22, of Glen Burnie, Maryland, and Monet Griffin, age 24, of Baltimore, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the first fraud scheme. Limnios and Griffin face a maximum penalty of seven and a half years for conspiracy to commit access device fraud. Limnios has agreed to pay at least $148,191.04 in restitution and forfeiture. Griffin has agreed to pay at least $27,409.57 in restitution and forfeiture. Sentencing dates for Limnios and Griffin are yet to be determined.
Chazokam Okoye, age 22, of Silver Spring, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to her participation in the second fraud scheme and was sentenced to four months in prison, followed by four months of home detention. Okoye was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service and to forfeit $30,000. Latasha Bufford, age 25, of Haymarket, Virginia, and Shanese Crawford, age 24, of Accokeek, Maryland, also pleaded guilty. Judge Messitte has scheduled Crawford’s sentencing for January 9, 2014 at 9:30 a.m. No date has been set for Bufford’s sentencing.
Today’s announcement is part of efforts underway by President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit www.stopfraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein thanked the U.S. Secret Service and the Montgomery County and Baltimore County Police Departments for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein praised Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sujit Raman and Thomas Windom, who prosecuted these cases.