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Two essex county, n.J., men plead guilty in $1 million wire fraud, money laundering scheme

January 12, 2012


NEWARK, N.J. – Two Essex County, N.J., men pleaded guilty today for their respective roles in a scam that used phony identification documents to set up various checking accounts to launder and steal more than $1 million.

Abiatu Umah, 53, and Emmanuel Awa, 51, both of South Orange, N.J., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court. Both pleaded guilty to Informations charging them with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

From February 2009 to August 2010, both defendants participated in a scheme to enrich themselves by opening business checking accounts at various banks and using these accounts to receive funds. The funds were, without authorization, wire transferred and otherwise transferred from accounts, within and outside the United States, which had been compromised.

In opening the recipient accounts, Awa and Umah used the aliases “Emanuel Albert Smith” and “Edwin John Nicholas,” respectively, and each presented a fictitious passport purportedly issued by the United Kingdom in the name of their alias. They frequently used the name of the compromised account as the name of the recipient account, adding terms such as “LLC” or “Corporation” to make it appear as thought the two accounts were related.

They opened more than 14 recipient accounts and received approximately $1 million in proceeds derived from the compromised accounts. They then used those proceeds for their personal benefit.

The wire fraud charge to which both men pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum potential sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million. The money laundering charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing before Judge Martini is scheduled for April 18, 2012.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited IRS - Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett, with the investigation leading to today’s pleas.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine S. Gerson of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark.


Defense counsel:

Awa: A. Paul Condon Esq., Jersey City, N.J.
Umah: Christian Fleming Esq., East Brunswick, N.J.

Awa, Emmanuel Information
Umah, Abiatu Information

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