News and Press Releases

Leader Of Corrupt Canadian Moneygram Agents Re-Sentenced On Conspiracy & Money Laundering Charges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 29, 2014

     Peter J. Smith, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, announced that the former leader of a large group of corrupt, Canadian based MoneyGram Agents has been resentenced to a lengthy term of incarceration for helping to defraud thousands of American citizens out of $4 million between January 2004 and April 2009.

     JAMES E. UGOH, age 51, of Toronto, Ontario, was re-sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo in Harrisburg  yesterday afternoon to 151 months (12.6 years) incarceration.   UGOH had been previously sentenced by Judge Rambo to 118 months incarceration in 2012.

     In October of 2009 UGOH and three other Toronto area MoneyGram agents, KAYODE KASSIM, age 45, ABEL ONGUNFUNWA, age 51, and FELIX MORDI, age 45 , were indicted on multiple charges by a Middle District of PA grand jury.  After an 18-month process, the four defendants were eventually extradited to Harrisburg where they pleaded guilty to Conspiracy to commit Mail Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering.  In 2012 the 4 were sentenced by Judge Rambo to the following terms of incarceration:

Mordi – 53 months
Ogunfunwa  –  63 months
Kassim – 80 months
Ugoh – 118 months

     After the sentences were imposed, the government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, arguing the district court erred in calculating their advisory sentencing guideline ranges.  Last year the Third Circuit agreed with the government and remanded the 4 cases back to Judge Rambo for resentencing.

     Thus far, only UGOH and KASSIM have been resentenced.  KASSIM was resentenced in December of last year to 109 months incarceration. MORDI is scheduled to be resentenced on February 13, 2014.  No date has yet been scheduled for OGUNFUNWA’s resentencing.

     Between 2004 and 2009 Canadian based, mass-marketing fraudsters distributed thousands of letters and counterfeit checks to American citizens via the mail and the Internet. The communications falsely promised the recipients cash prizes, fictitious loans, commissions and other payments. The recipients were typically tricked into depositing worthless counterfeit checks into their bank accounts before sending money to the fraudsters for “taxes” and other bogus fees via the MoneyGram money transfer system.

     UGOH, an expatriated Nigerian Tribal Chief living in Toronto, was the leader of a corrupt group of Canadian MoneyGram agents who conspired with the mass marketing fraudsters to intercept, launder and distribute the MoneyGram transfers sent by the victims of the mass-marketing schemes.  UGOH obtained his first MoneyGram outlet in 2001.  By 2008 UGOH had 12 MoneyGram outlets in the greater Toronto area, 1l operating under the name of Money Spot and 1 under the name of N & E Associates.   Between January 2005 and February 2009 UGOH’s outlets paid out more Consumer Fraud Reported money transfers than any other MoneyGram agent in the world - 1,754 transfers totaling $3.4 million.

     But UGOH’s money laundering activities went far beyond just his 12 MoneyGram outlets.  UGOH recruited MORDI, KASSIM, and ONGUNFUNWA to launder MoneyGram transfers checks issued by approximately 28 other corrupt MoneyGram agents in the greater Toronto area.  Instead of making the MoneyGram checks payable to the intended payees, UGOH and his co-conspirators would make the checks payable to third party companies controlled by MORDI, KASSIM and OGUNFUNWA.  MORDI, KASSIM and UNGUNFUNWA would then deposit the checks into their bank accounts, keep an approximate 3 to 4% cut for themselves, and distribute the balance to UGOH. UGOH would then share the bulk of the funds with the mass marketing fraudsters, typically via off-shore money MoneyGram transfers to Nigeria, Jamaica or Romania, thereby effectively laundering the proceeds. The $4 million loss stipulation in UGOH’s plea agreement represented the approximate dollar value of 2,309 transfers paid out at the 18 MoneyGram outlets controlled by UGOH, MORDI, KASSIM and UNGUNFUNWA that were reported by MoneyGram customers as being fraudulently induced between 2004 and March of 2009.

     The UGOH case was one of several on-going investigations of fraudulent international telemarketing schemes involving corrupt MoneyGram and Western Union agents by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Harrisburg and the U.S. Attorney=s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.   In November of 2012 the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of PA and the U.S. Justice Department entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with MoneyGram that required the company to pay $100 million into a victim restitution fund. Thus far, the Postal Inspection Service has returned approximately half of the $100 million to thousands of victims of the mass marketing schemes. 

     The MoneyGram agent and corporate prosecutions are being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kim Douglas Daniel and Christy Fawcett, with assistance from the Justice Department’s Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in Washington, D.C..  The Third Circuit appeal in the UGOH cases was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Cerutti.

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