May 21, 2010
MONEY SERVICES BUSINESS OPERATOR CHARGED WITH CONSPIRING TO COMMIT FRAUD AND MONEY LAUNDERING
(HOUSTON) - An eight-count indictment charging Jonathan Akinola, of Houston, with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit international money laundering, international money laundering and aggravated identity theft was unsealed today following Akinola’s arrest, United States Attorney José Angel Moreno announced. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on May 11, 2010.
Akinola was arrested at his residence this morning by inspectors from the United State Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) and is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court before United States Magistrate Judge Nancy Johnson this afternoon.
According to the indictment, between July 2005 and March 2009, Akinola operated a money services business called Postal & Wireless Outlet and used his license as a Western Union agent to facilitate international fraud schemes and commit international money laundering.
Akinola was allegedly a member of two conspiracies to commit mail and wire fraud. In the first, conspirators in a foreign country would allegedly mail victims a letter containing a counterfeit check and advising the victims they had been chosen to be mystery shoppers. The letter instructed the victims to deposit the check into their personal bank account, wire a portion of the funds using Western Union to a name given to them by the conspirators and then to evaluate the Western Union location as a mystery shopper. Victims would then call a number given to them by the alleged conspirators and provide the information from the Western Union transfer, which Akinola would use to receive the funds at his Western Union location using a false identification. The indictment alleges Akinola would then wire a portion of the proceeds to conspirators in Canada and other overseas locations. The victims’ banks would allegedly eventually determine the original check was fraudulent and would remove the funds from the victims’ accounts. Since the victims had already wired the funds to the conspirators, the victims were responsible for the shortfall.
The second conspiracy allegedly involved the use of the computer website Craigslist on which an item was listed for sale allegedly by a conspirator. When contacted by a buyer who wanted to purchase the item, a conspirator would direct the buyer to wire funds for the purchase using Western Union. After victims did so and provided the Western Union information to a conspirator, Akinola would allegedly use that information to receive funds at his Western Union location using a false identification. The indictment alleges Akinola would then wire a portion of the proceeds to conspirators in Canada and other overseas locations. The items the victims thought they were purchasing were never delivered.
The indictment alleges that, during the course of the conspiracy, Akinola recorded false identification and Social Security number identification for at least 174 transactions totaling more than $350,000. The indictment seeks forfeiture of all proceeds derived from or facilitating the alleged violations including, but not limited to, a money judgment in the amount of $382,523.
Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud carries a maximum punishment of 30 years imprisonment and a $1 million fine. Conspiracy to commit international money laundering and each of the four counts of international money laundering carry a maximum punishment of 20 years imprisonment and a fine not to exceed $500,000, or twice the value of the funds transferred. Aggravated identity theft carries a punishment of two years’ imprisonment to be served consecutively to the sentence for the felony during which the means of identification was used. There is no parole in the federal system.
The charges against Akinola are the result of a year-long investigation conducted by the USPIS. Assistant United States Attorney Matt Cooper is prosecuting the case.
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