Former Canadian Moneygram And Western Union Agent Pleads Guilty To $4.4 Million Fraud Scheme
HARRISBURG –The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Lucas Obi, age 53, of Toronto, Canada, a former Western Union and MoneyGram agent, pled guilty today before United States Magistrate Judge Martin C. Carlson to defrauding thousands of victims out of approximately $4.4 million via international mass marketing, consumer fraud schemes.
According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, Obi was indicted in December 2012, and was extradited to the United States from Canada. Obi was not arraigned on his Indictment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania until August 2016.
According to the indictment, Lucas Obi, A/K/A “Suleman Ajukwusualim, was the owner/operator of a Western Union and a MoneyGram agency, both of which were known as Canada Cash Express, Inc., and located at the same Toronto address. According to the indictment, Obi conspired with others between 1999 and 2010 to commit the wire fraud offense and was the leader of a group of fraud complicit MoneyGram and Western Union agents in the greater Toronto area. Obi was the group’s mentor and leader who taught others how to engage in mass marketing fraud and complicit money transfer agent activity. Obi trained the agents on how to process fraud induced money transfers and allowed them to keep a cut, 5% to 10%, for their role in the schemes. Obi also recruited persons to act as money transfer outlet owners on his behalf, gathered fraudulently induced money transfer checks from other fraud complicit agents, and deposited the checks with fictitious name endorsements into his bank accounts. Obi then distributed the fraud proceeds, less his cut, to numerous greater Toronto area fraudsters and money launderers.
The known total dollar loss associated with all fraud reported money transfers paid out at Canada Cash Express and Obi’s other fraud complicit check-pooling agents is $4,482,927. Pursuant to a deferred prosecution agreement with MoneyGram, a $100 million victim restitution fund was established for victims of Obi’s fraud. A $586 million restitution fund is also being established for victims who sent their money via Western Union pursuant to the recently filed, January 19, 2017, Western Union deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the U.S. Justice Department.
Sentencing is tentatively scheduled for August 15, 2017.
The case was investigated by the Harrisburg Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Federal Trade Commission, the Toronto Police Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, the Canada Competition Bureau, and the Ministry of Government Services. The Justice Department's Office of Internal Affiars provided assistance with the extradition of the defendant. Assistant United States Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel is prosecuting the case.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.
The maximum penalty under federal law for each count is 20 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a $250,000 fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.
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