Man Indicted on Federal Charges for Aiming a Laser Pointer at Spokane County Sheriff’s Helicopter and Life Flight Helicopter
Richland, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced a six-count federal indictment charging Ayoola Taiwo Adeoti a/k/a “Gaji,” age 41, with bank fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy in connection with a business email compromise (BEC) scam that is alleged to have stolen $740,216.79 from Benton County in November 2019.
The indictment alleges that Adeoti directed an individual to set up bank accounts in the Atlanta, Georgia area, in the name of a fictitious business. As alleged in the indictment, a co-conspirator of Adeoti then posed as a contractor of Benton County by using a fraudulent email sent from overseas that mimicked the name of a legitimate contractor frequently employed by the County. As a result of the fraudulent emails, the indictment alleges, Benton County employees believed that the County had received valid electronic funds transfer information to make payment, when in fact Adeoti and his co-conspirators directed payment to one of the bank accounts that Adeoti had fraudulently created. According to the indictment, neither Adeoti nor any of the co-conspirators had any connection to Benton County’s contractor, but based on the fraudulent emails, and resulting instructions to Benton County’s bank, Benton County electronically transferred $740,216.79 of its funds into the bank account in Atlanta fraudulently set up by Adeoti. That same day, as charged in the indictment, a co-conspirator of Adeoti’s withdrew $8,000 in cash from the fraudulently created bank account and handed the cash directly to Adeoti.
“Business email compromise scams, often perpetrated outside of the state, are a recurring problem which illegally siphon funds from our businesses, local governments, and residents throughout Eastern Washington,” said U.S. Attorney Vanessa R. Waldref. “In order to make Eastern Washington communities safer and stronger, we will continue to vigorously prosecute these scammers and those that manage these conspiracies.”
Fortunately, Benton County employees realized that the County had likely been defrauded and immediately contacted law enforcement. Based on court records, this led to the United States Secret Service, in conjunction with the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, to execute a seizure warrant on the alleged fraudulent bank account and seize the remaining funds that had not immediately been withdrawn. The United States Attorney’s Office subsequently forfeited the funds through a civil forfeiture action, which resulted in returning $717,201.44 of the stolen funds to Benton County.
“I commend the Benton County Auditor’s Office for quickly realizing what happened and immediately reaching out to law enforcement. Because of their prompt response, our office and the Secret Service have already returned more than 95% of the stolen funds to the people of Benton County,” added U.S. Attorney Waldref.
If convicted, Mr. Adeoti faces the following possible maximum statutory sentences: 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and on each count of wire fraud; 30 years in prison for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and on each count of bank fraud.
This case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, Spokane Resident Office. This case is being prosecuted by Dan Fruchter and Tyler Tornabene, Assistant United States Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington. The civil forfeiture action was prosecuted by Brian M. Donovan, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.