Clay County Man Indicted For Fraud Scheme Using Stolen Identities To Obtain Paycheck Protection Program Loans, Filing A False Tax Return, And Stolen Property
Tampa, Florida – U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday today sentenced Ikechukwu Derek Amadi (38, Mississauga, Ontario) to 15 years and 8 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The court also entered an order of forfeiture against Amadi for $10,632,546.36, representing the proceeds of the charged criminal conduct, and ordered him to pay restitution to his victims in the amount of $4,360,740.97.
Amadi had pleaded guilty on July 25, 2019, following his extradition to the United States from Canada.
According to court documents and evidence presented at the trials of his convicted coconspirators, Amadi, a dual citizen of Nigeria and Canada, worked with an international criminal organization based in Nigeria that defrauded dozens of victims across the United States and then laundered the funds through a complex network of bank accounts. The organization, known as the Black Axe Group, or Neo Black Movement of Africa, coordinated fraud and money laundering activity throughout the globe via cells or “zones” in Nigeria, Canada, the United States, and elsewhere.
The fraud schemes took several forms. Conspirators posed as suitors on dating websites, where they befriended widowed or divorced elderly women and then convinced their victims to wire money, often consisting of the victim’s entire retirement savings and cash taken out from home equity, to bank accounts in the United States as part of a purported investment opportunity. The conspirators also defrauded title companies with fake cashier’s checks in phony real estate transactions, leaving the companies on the hook for the losses once the checks bounced. And they targeted businesses using email spoofing and hacking schemes, as well as law firms that they solicited online to perform legal work and then provided fake cashier’s checks for deposit into the firms’ trust accounts.
Victims were instructed to wire their money into numerous funnel accounts held by conspirators in the United States, known as “money mules,” and the funds were then quickly moved to other accounts in the United States and around the world before the victims could discover the fraud. From 2012 to 2015, Amadi was accountable for at least $16.4 million in fraud proceeds that were traceable to the different schemes. Amadi himself recruited more than a dozen individuals in the United States to act as money mules for him and oversaw their activities. He then instructed those individuals to wire most of the victims’ funds overseas, including to Hong Kong, China, Canada and Nigeria, to promote the conspiracy and to conceal the source of the funds.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with assistance from various federal and local law enforcement partners throughout the country, including the Toronto Police Service in Ontario, Canada and the Toronto Strategic Partnership. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Patrick Scruggs.