Inland Empire Man Sentenced to More than 6 Years in Federal Prison for Stealing Disaster Relief Funds Intended for Hurricane Victims
LOS ANGELES – A San Bernardino County man has been sentenced to 79 months in federal prison for conspiring to defraud the government out of more than $1.3 million in benefits, including Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster relief funds intended for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017.
Ikponmwosa Eugene Idemudia, 40, of Rancho Cucamonga, was sentenced at a Monday hearing by United States District Judge Percy Anderson, who also ordered him to pay $1,328,982 in restitution. Idemudia pleaded guilty in October 2018 to one felony count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Court documents state that from 2016 until May 2018, Idemudia conspired with others to use stolen identities to apply for fraudulent government benefits, including FEMA disaster assistance funds, Social Security Administration benefits, federal tax refunds, federal unemployment benefits, and Health and Human Services benefits. The FEMA disaster relief money was stolen through the conspiracy occurred in relation to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, which were presidentially declared major disasters. Once the funds were illicitly obtained, Idemudia and his co-conspirators transferred the benefits to prepaid debit cards, including Green Dot cards that had been registered under false names. Idemudia and his co-conspirators then converted the debit cards to cash.
When law enforcement executed a search warrant at Idemudia’s residence in May 2018, agents found $256,904 in cash and more than $130,000 on prepaid debit cards. A preliminary forensic review of Idemudia’s cell phones showed that he exchanged more than 100 images of prepaid debit cards or gift cards with co-conspirators and the prepaid card numbers were registered with the stolen identities from various victims throughout the United States.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General, the United States Postal Inspection Service, Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, U.S. Secret Service, and Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General
This matter is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Andrew Brown of the Major Frauds Section.