Man Sentenced To 54 Months In Prison For Role In $4 Million Tax Fraud Scheme Involving More Than 600 Stolen Identities; Second Co-Conspirator Pleads Guilty
WILMINGTON, Del. - Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that James Ekeke, age 26, of Smyrna, Georgia, was sentenced yesterday by the Honorable Leonard P. Stark, United States District Judge for the District of Delaware, to 54 months imprisonment and full restitution. The defendant pleaded guilty to violations of 18 U.S.C. § 286 (False Claims Conspiracy) and 18 U.S.C. § 1029(a)(3) (Access Device Fraud), in February 2015. The defendant is a citizen of Nigeria, and he faces deportation at the conclusion of his term of imprisonment.
According to court filings and statements at the sentencing hearing, the defendant and his co-conspirators attempted to obtain more than $4,000,000 in taxpayer funds from the United States Department of Treasury, through the filing of false tax returns. The defendant was personally responsible for purchasing and supplying more than 600 stolen identities to others, he personally filed many fraudulent tax returns, and he received a significant portion of the proceeds.
The Department of Treasury lost more than $1.2 million in taxpayer funds, and the hundreds of individuals whose identities were used suffered the compromise of their personal information. Judge Stark remarked, “The losses to the identity theft victims are hard to quantify.”
The defendant began participating in fraudulent conduct within months of entering the United States, and he continued to participate in tax fraud after one of his co-conspirators was arrested. After the arrest of separately charged and convicted co-conspirator, Festus Frimpong, the defendant changed his telephone number and his internet router, before filing additional false tax returns in 2014.
Also today, co-conspirator Victor Kwabenda Adofo Asante, a.k.a.Victor Asante, age 25, formerly of Newark, Delaware, pled guilty to violations of 18 USC § 286 (False Claims Conspiracy), and 18 USC § 1349 (Bank Fraud Conspiracy). He will be sentenced on October 1, 2015, before Honorable Leonard P. Stark. Asante faces a maximum sentence of thirty years in prison, a fine of $250,000, and 5 years of supervised release.
U.S. Attorney Oberly gave the following comments: “It is gratifying to see the United States District Court, Judge Stark, hand down a sentence of more than four years of incarceration for Mr. Ekeke. Defendants like Mr. Ekeke deserve such sentences and subsequent deportation when applicable. The American public, the ultimate victims in schemes like this need to know that defendants who engage in activities such as this will be prosecuted as felons and incarcerated. This District is committed to vigorously prosecuting defendants like Mr. Ekeke and Mr. Asante.”
“Defendants Ekeke and Asante demonstrated a blatant disregard of the integrity of the United States tax system and caused immeasurable hardship to innocent victims. IRS Criminal Investigation remains committed to the pursuit of identity theft and, together with our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, we will hold those who engage in similar conduct accountable”, said Akeia Conner, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Field Office.
These cases are the result of an ongoing investigation conducted by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General. The cases are being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Paxton.