Former Canadian Moneygram And Western Union Agent Pleads Guilty To Fraud And Money Laundering Conspiracy Charges
HARRISBURG – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that a former Western Union and MoneyGram agent in Canada has pleaded guilty to charges that he conspired to defraud hundreds of American residents out of more than $900,000 via mass marketing consumer fraud schemes.
According to United States Attorney Peter Smith, Chima Nneji, age 55, of Toronto, Canada, entered his guilty plea today before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner in Harrisburg. Nneji pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering.
According to the Indictment by a Middle District of Pennsylvania grand jury in September 2012, Chima Nneji conspired with his codefendant brother, William Nneji, codefendant Alex Mgbolu, and other unnamed individuals between July of 2002 and May of 2010 to commit the crimes. Chima Nneji was extradited to the United States from Canada and was arraigned on his charges in Harrisburg in July 2015.
According to the Indictment, Chima Nneji was the owner/operator of a Western Union agency called Advanced Computer and a MoneyGram agency known as Hallmark Services, in Toronto, Canada. Between November 2004 and April of 2007, international mass marketing fraudsters instructed hundreds of consumer fraud victims across the United States to send Western Union and MoneyGram money transfers to Advanced Computer Service and Hallmark Services. The transfers were then paid out by Chima Nneji, and his brother. Nneji and his brother cashed out the money transfers in a manner that maintained the anonymity of the fraudsters, by entering false names and identification data into the Western Union and MoneyGram computer data bases. Analysts from the Toronto Police Service and U.S. Postal Inspection Service determined that over 90% of the payee addresses and identification numbers entered at Advanced Computer Service and Hallmark Services were invalid. For his role in the scheme, Chima Nneji retained a portion of the money transfers before sending the balance of the funds on to the fraudsters.
Law enforcement personnel sent questionnaires to hundreds of MoneyGram customers in the United States whose $1,000 plus money transfers were paid out at Hallmark Services. Not a single sender reported that their transfer was sent for a legitimate purpose. 198 customers reported that their money transfers, which totaled $579,436, were fraud-induced. The known total dollar loss associated with all consumer fraud induced money transfers paid out at Advanced Computer Service and Hallmark Services is $915,978.
Codefendant William Nneji is a fugitive from justice. Codefendant Alex Mgbolu is scheduled for trial before Judge Conner on August 15, 2016. No date has been scheduled as yet by Judge Conner for Nneji’s sentencing.
The case is part of an ongoing investigation by the Harrisburg Office of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kim Douglas Daniel.
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 is 5 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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