Baltimore Man Pleads Guilty and Two Sentenced in Federal Court for Identity Theft Schemes
Stolen Identity Refund Fraud and Bank Fraud Schemes Used the Personal Identifying Information of Individual Victims
Baltimore, Maryland – A Nigerian national pleaded guilty this week to a federal wire fraud conspiracy for using the personal identifying information (PII) of individual victims to commit stolen identity refund fraud (SIRF). In a separate scheme, two Baltimore area women were sentenced to federal prison in a bank fraud scheme, which also used the PII of victims.
Adebola Opeyemi Adeniyi, age 31, a Nigerian citizen and a resident of Baltimore, pleaded guilty today to conspiring to commit wire fraud in a SIRF scheme, using the personal identifying information (PII) of individual victims to defraud the IRS by obtaining over $655,000 in fraudulent tax refunds.
Chief U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced LaKeisha Butler, age 33, of Columbia, Maryland to 30 months in prison on July 22, 2016, and on July 26, 2016, sentenced co-defendant Kesa Baker, age 43, of Baltimore, to 13 months in prison, after giving her credit for 13 months she served on a related case in Pennsylvania, each followed by five years of supervised release, for their roles in a $1.5 million bank fraud scheme. Six additional co-defendants are awaiting sentencing in this case, including Terry Bowman, age 55, of Laurel, Maryland. On June 9, 2016, Bowman was convicted by a federal jury for conspiracy, bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft.
The guilty plea and sentences were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge Andre R. Watson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Postal Inspector in Charge Maria L. Kelokates of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service - Washington Division; Special Agent in Charge Thomas Jankowski of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Washington, D.C. Field Office; and Chief James Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to his plea agreement, from October 17, 2013 through March 17, 2015, Adeniyi and his co-conspirators filed false tax returns, arranging for the electronic transfer of the fraudulently obtained tax refunds to prepaid debit cards. Adeniyi also obtained victims’ account information from the 2013 Target Store data breach, which he and other participants in the scheme used to re-encode the magnetic strips of payment cards in their possession. Adeniyi and other participants used the debit cards loaded with SIRF funds and the re-encoded payment cards to purchase money orders, some of which they cashed at check cashing businesses. Adeniyi shared the cash proceeds with other participants in the scheme. The total value of money orders purchased with SIRF funds and cashed by Adeniyi or at his direction was at least $665,635. The total value of money orders purchased with account information compromised during the Target Store data breach and cashed at Adeniyi’s direction was at least $80,500.
Further, Adeniyi admitted that he used some of the money orders obtained from the two schemes to: purchase vehicles at auctions in Maryland, and arrange for their shipment to purchasers in Nigeria; and to engage in currency exchange transactions, exchanging U.S. currency for Nigerian currency at competitively low rates.
In a separate case, co-defendants Butler and Baker participated in a scheme to defraud financial institutions by depositing counterfeit and stolen checks into bank accounts opened and controlled by the conspirators, and withdrawing the funds before the deposits were identified as fraudulent. Among other things, Butler and Baker opened accounts using the PII of others, and deposited and cashed checks. Baker and Butler generally received 5-10% of any checks they cashed. Butler, Baker and their co-conspirators obtained extensions of credit from federally insured financial institutions of $1,519,429.52 and attempted to obtain extensions of credit of $3,149,616.10.
Adeniyi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud conspiracy. U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz scheduled his sentencing for September 30, 2016, at 11:00 a.m. As part of his plea agreement, Adeniyi will also be required to pay restitution of $550,000, the full amount of the victims’ losses. Co-conspirators Mayowa Olabiyi Towobola, age 25, of Parkville, Maryland, and Hafis Omowonuola Oladokun, age 39, of Owings Mills, Maryland, previously pleaded guilty to their involvement in the wire fraud conspiracy and are awaiting sentencing
The Maryland Identity Theft Working Group has been working since 2006 to foster cooperation among local, state, federal, and institutional fraud investigators and to promote effective prosecution of identity theft schemes by both state and federal prosecutors. This case, as well as other cases brought by members of the Working Group, demonstrates the commitment of law enforcement agencies to work with financial institutions and businesses to address identity fraud, identify those who compromise personal identity information, and protect citizens from identity theft.
Today’s announcement is part of the efforts undertaken in connection with the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force was established to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices, and state and local partners, it’s the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets; and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations. Since fiscal year 2009, the Justice Department has filed over 18,000 financial fraud cases against more than 25,000 defendants. For more information on the task force, please visit www.StopFraud.gov.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended HSI-Baltimore, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, IRS-CI and Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and Matthew J. Maddox, who are prosecuting the Adeniyi case; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tamera L. Fine, who prosecuted the Butler and Baker case.