Canadian Man Sentenced To 18 Years’ Imprisonment For Multi-Million Dollar Fraud Targeting U.S. Lawyers
HARRISBURG - The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Henry Okpalefe, age 50, currently incarcerated and formerly of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to 216 months’ imprisonment and three years’ supervised release by United States District Court Judge John E. Jones, III, for conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering. Okpalefe was convicted on March 30, 2017, after a three-day bench trial before Judge Jones.
According to United States Attorney David J. Freed, between 2008 and 2010, Okpalefe and his co-conspirators stole over $23 million from hundreds of lawyers and law firms in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and nationwide. Under the guise of seeking legal representation, the conspirators contacted attorneys and law firms in the United States using fake email accounts. Once an attorney or law firm agreed to represent the purported client, the conspirators sent bank checks through the mail and instructed them to deposit the money into their IOLTA accounts. From there, the attorneys were provided with wire instructions and they wired their legitimate funds to Asian bank accounts. Before the counterfeit checks were returned as fraudulent, the money had already been withdrawn by co-conspirators in Asia and distributed to conspirators’ bank accounts in Nigeria and Canada. Okpalefe and his co-conspirators operated in Canada, Nigeria, Japan and South Korea.
Judge Jones ordered Okpalefe to pay $23 million in restitution to the victims and to forfeit $504,787.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Postal Inspection Service. The Toronto Strategic Partnership and the Toronto Police Service provided integral assistance in the investigation and prosecution of the case. The Justice Department's Office of International Affairs provided assistance with the investigation. Assistant United States Attorneys Chelsea Schinnour and Kim Douglas Daniel prosecuted the case.
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