June 21, 2010
NIGERIAN NATIONAL CONVICTED FOR ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL IDENTITY THEFT AND MONEY LAUNDERING RING
(HOUSTON) – A federal jury has found Ezumah Chukwuemeka Ndubuisi, 54, a Nigerian national and resident of Richmond, Texas, guilty for his role in a conspiracy to launder funds and commit bank fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced today.
U.S. District Judge Gray Miller presided over this five day re-trial which follows the declaration of a mistrial in December 2009. At the conclusion of the evidence today, the jury deliberated for approximately three hours before returning its verdicts, finding Ndubuisi guilty on all counts – one count of conspiracy to launder funds, one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, 10 counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Trial testimony showed that in October 2005 Ndubuisi and other members of the conspiracy, including Motibem Etuk, took over the Suntrust bank account of a victim who lived in South Africa. After taking over the account, the conspirators pretended to be the victim and requested a new debit card be sent to a private mailbox on Richmond Avenue in Houston. Suntrust mailed the new debit card and Ndubuisi and other members of the conspiracy withdrew $225,000 from the account by making ATM withdrawals, store purchases and purchasing more than 150 postal service money orders in denominations of $1,000 or less.
The money orders were purchased from 10 different post offices around Houston in amounts less than $3,000 to avoid the postal service filing currency transaction reports. Ndubuisi deposited at least 36 of the money orders into various accounts including three of his own accounts – one in his personal account and the other two accounts in the name of fake companies. Ndubuisi wrote the names of different businesses on the money orders to disguise the source of the funds. A fingerprint examiner testified that Ndubuisi’s fingerprints were found on 10 of these money orders – more than any of Ndubuisi’s conspirators. SunTrust closed the fraudulent account in December 2005 after $225,000 had been withdrawn.
During trial, Ndubuisi testified that the companies to which some of the money orders had been written including EZ Construction were legitimate businesses. Account records were offered during the trial which showed the accounts contained hundreds of money orders and a number of checks from a well-known home builder made payable to EZ Construction. However, the government presented testimony from a witness from the home builder who testified that the builder’s checks were paid to EZ Construction for work that was done by other contractors but were apparently part of yet another fraud scheme being executed by Ndubuisi with an insider who worked for the builder. No customer of the well known home builder lost any money as a result of Ndubuisi’s scheme. Ndubuisi unsuccessfully tried to convince this jury that he did not know that the money orders were obtained through a fraud scheme and that he received the money orders from selling wrecked cars that he repainted, repaired and shipped to Nigeria for sale to unsuspecting customers.
In December 2010, a jury could not unanimously agree on a verdict in this case. However, during this trial Ndubuisi admitted he lied during the previous proceeding. In addition, trial testimony showed that additional fraudulent money orders with another victim from California were deposited into Ndubuisi’s accounts during October and November 2005 that Ndubuisi could not explain. Co-defendant Motibem Etuk, who is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty through due process of law, remains a fugitive and is believed to be in Nigeria. A warrant remain outstanding for his arrest.
Ndubuisi’s sentencing is set for Sept. 16, 2010. He faces up to 30 years in prison for bank fraud and the money laundering conspiracy, a $1 million fine and a two-year consecutive sentence for the aggravated identity theft conviction. He remains in federal custody without bond pending that hearing.
This case was investigated by the United States Postal Inspection Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Ryan D. McConnell and Matt Cooper tried the case.
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