Adebowale Ayodeji Owoaje, 31, of Nigeria, pleaded guilty today to wire fraud in a scheme to defraud individuals who were selling items and applying for jobs on Craigslist.com. Using various aliases while he was located overseas, Owoaje used e-mail to reach an agreement with the individuals on the sale price of items or terms of employment, including funds for a purported bonus or training materials.
From overseas, Owoaje sent counterfeit cashier’s checks to his co-conspirators here in the United States. Based on instructions from Owoaje, a co-conspirator typed amounts on counterfeit cashier’s checks that exceeded the sales price or bonus agreed to by Owaoje and the individuals. The co-conspirator then mailed the counterfeit cashier’s checks to the individuals.
Owoaje informed individuals that a check in the wrong amount was sent to them by “mistake.” Owaoje then asked individuals to deposit that check in their bank account and to keep the amount Owoaje owed the individual plus an additional sum for their trouble. Owoaje instructed individuals to wire the balance of the money via Western Union to a co-conspirator, whom Owoaje falsely represented to individuals as his secretary or shipping agent. Only after wiring this money did individuals learn that the cashier’s checks they received were counterfeit.
U.S. District Court Judge Mary A. McLaughlin scheduled a sentencing hearing for April 15, 2013. Owoaje faces a maximum possible sentence of 80 years in prison, a three year period of supervised release, a fine of up to $1 million, and a $400 special assessment.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Vineet Gauri.
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