Verdicts Returned in Houston Identity Theft/Bank Fraud Trial
|March 15, 2012|
HOUSTON – A federal jury sitting in Houston has returned guilty verdicts against two men involved in bank fraud and aggravated identity theft, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.
Kolawole Monday Onenese, 37, of Houston, and Ramoni Alade Matti, 42, of Nigeria, were charged in a five-count superceding indictment on Feb. 23, 2012. Less than an hour ago, the jury found them guilty on all counts charged following four days of trial and three hours of deliberation.
During the trial, testimony from a Chase bank fraud investigator established that in June 2011, approximately 27 numerous fraudulent Chase credit card accounts were identified that had either been opened via stolen identities or were existing accounts that had somehow been compromised and used without the true cardholder’s consent. All the accounts had the same phone numbers and addresses attached to them. A U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigator testified that the investigation led to the identification of Onenese and his residence. During the execution of a federal search warrant at the residence on June 27, 2011, agents discovered Onenese and Matti, who claimed he actually lived there and that Onenese rented the apartment for him.
The government established during trial that Matti and Onenese conspired with another and acted with intent to defraud and executed a scheme to obtain money from various federally-insured financial institutions by means of false or fraudulent pretenses. The jury also found that while doing so, they used, transferred or possessed, without lawful authority, the identification of other persons.
Several victims offered testimony about the fraudulent use of their personal information. Evidence at trial was also presented including various items seized during a search of the apartment such as two laptop computers, credit reports in various names, credit cards, cell phones and sim cards, mail addressed to various names, a spiral notebook filled with personal identification information of dozens of people and other items related to identity theft. The jury also saw footage of Matti withdrawing funds from a drive-up ATM on April 19, 2011, prior to the date of the search warrant executed at the apartment.
Convictions for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud both carry possible terms of imprisonment of up to 30 years and a $1 million fine on each count, while a conviction of aggravated identity theft carries a mandatory additional two-year-term of imprisonment which must be served consecutive to any other term imposed in addition to a maximum $250,000 fine. Following the jury’s guilty verdict, Onenese, who was on bond, was taken into federal custody. Matti was previously ordered detained pending trial due to his unlawful immigration status. U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt has set sentencing for June 11, 2012.
The case was investigated by USPIS with the assistance of Chase Bank and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys David Searle and Kebharu Smith.