Two Defendants Charged with Stealing or Misusing $20 Million in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Benefits
Earlier today, in federal court in Brooklyn, Joseph Modile, a Nigerian national, pleaded guilty to an indictment in the Eastern District of New York charging him with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, and an information filed in the Southern District of Texas and transferred to the Eastern District of New York, charging him with money laundering and wire fraud. The proceeding was held before United States Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes, Jr. When sentenced, Modile faces up to 20 years’ imprisonment for each of the fraud counts and the money laundering count and a consecutive sentence of two years’ imprisonment for the aggravated identity theft count. Upon completion of his sentence, Modile faces deportation from the United States.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Alamdar S. Hamdani, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Texas (SDTX), announced the guilty plea.
“With today’s guilty plea, Modile is revealed as a prolific fraudster and money launderer who has left a trail of fake documents, plundered bank accounts, and financial victims from Brooklyn all the way across the country,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “I commend all of the law enforcement agencies for pulling together the threads of the defendant’s complex schemes in order to hold him accountable for his multiple crimes.”
“A major figure in fraud has been taken out of the equation,” stated United States Attorney Hamdani. “Thanks to the partnerships in law enforcement and the sophisticated techniques used during the investigation, this prolific money launderer had no choice but admit his guilt and will be held accountable for his crimes.”
Mr. Peace expressed his thanks to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, and the New York City Police Department, which conducted this investigation as part of an enterprise Priority Transnational Organized Crime (PTOC) of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF), the FBI’s Houston Field Office which led the OCDETF operation, the FBI’s Boston Field Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service, New York County District Attorney’s Office, the Houston Police Department, and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for their substantial assistance.
In a scheme that was charged in the Eastern District of New York, from January 2014 and September 2018, Modile and others defrauded victims, businesses, and financial institutions in the United States through a sophisticated home equity line of credit (HELOC) scheme involving a series of bank account takeovers. During this time, Modile and others also laundered proceeds from the bank account takeovers. In furtherance of the HELOC fraud scheme, Modile and others acquired personal identifying information (PII) of the actual holders of the targeted bank accounts at the financial institutions. The co-conspirators then used the PII to impersonate the actual holders of the targeted bank accounts, thereby gaining control of the accounts. In some cases, members of the conspiracy recruited “runners,” who impersonated the actual account holders inside bank branches using forged and fraudulent identification documents created at the direction of Modile and others. In most instances, the stolen funds were first deposited into fraudulent bank accounts set up and controlled by co-conspirators in the names of the actual victims from whom the money had been stolen. In other cases, the bank accounts into which the stolen funds were first deposited were in the names of sham corporations, which were opened using false and fraudulent identification. In total, Modile and others stole at least $5 million as part of the HELOC fraud scheme.
In a related scheme charged in the Eastern District of New York, in May 2018, Modile and others engaged in a separate Business Email Compromise scheme, using fraudulent emails and telephone calls to steal approximately $10.2 million from a victim company. The co-conspirators impersonated a contractor of an entity located in St. Paul, Minnesota, through a fraudulent email address and directed representatives of the entity to deposit the funds in an account controlled by members of the conspiracy. Modile and others then laundered those stolen funds through bank accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy.
Finally, as set forth in the information filed in the Southern District of Texas, from November 2017 until May 2018, Modile knowingly devised a scheme to defraud victims. Modile used his cellular phone to communicate with others about financial transactions for the purpose of executing his scheme to defraud. In particular, he directed an individual already convicted in Houston, Texas to withdraw cash from their bank account and provide to others. Modile also directed the individual in Houston to lie to their financial institution regarding the reason for withdrawing money from their account. In February 2018, Modile orchestrated and directed a substantial amount of money into an account of the individual in Houston. The money derived from wire fraud and Modile was aware the money came from unlawful activity.
This effort is part of an OCDETF operation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at https://www.justice.gov/OCDETF
The government’s case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Business and Securities Fraud Section. Assistant United States Attorney David Pitluck is in charge of the prosecution, with assistance from Paralegal Specialist William Daniels, along with Assistant United States Attorney Rodolfo Ramirez of the Southern District of Texas.
Los Angeles, California
E.D.N.Y. Docket Nos. 21-CR-108 and 23-CR-50 (DG)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office