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two essex county, n.J., men sentenced to prison in $1 million wire fraud, money laundering scheme

July 11, 2012


NEWARK, N.J. – Two Essex County, N.J., men were sentenced today to prison terms 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., were sentenced to 48 months and 38 months in prison, respectively. The defendants previously pleaded guilty to Informations charging them each with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. They entered their guilty pleas before U.S. District Judge William J. Martini, who also imposed the sentences today in Newark federal court.

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 the accounts to receive funds. The funds were transferred without authorization within and outside the United States by wire and other methods from compromised accounts.

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 his alias. They frequently used the name of a 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.

Awa and Umah 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.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Martini sentenced the defendants to serve three years of supervised release and ordered them to pay $1,016,440 in restitution.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge John R. Tafur, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett, with the investigation.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Lorraine S. Gerson of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit in Newark.


Defense counsel:

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

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