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NEWARK, N.J. – A Nigerian man was charged today for his role in a fraud scheme that targeted a New Jersey-based audiobook and podcast service, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Anyanwu Benjamin Chizitere, 30, of Enugu, Nigeria, is charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, six counts of wire fraud, and three counts of copyright fraud.
According to the indictment:
Between February 2018 and April 2022, Chizitere conspired with others to defraud a New Jersey company and others. He posed as the rights holder for more than 800 books and contracted with more than 600 voice actors to produce audiobooks of the written works. Chizitere misrepresented that he was legally entitled to make the audiobooks available for production and distribution because he was either the author of the books or a person to whom the author of the books transferred production and distribution rights. Chizitere created hundreds of accounts through a service provided by the victim company and, using the accounts, published the infringing audiobooks on the company’s platforms, including its website and mobile application.
Chizitere and others were paid more than $250,000 in royalties based on downloads of the infringing audiobooks. The voice actors who produced the audiobooks at Chizitere’s direction were never compensated and suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in aggregate losses.
Chizitere also directed others to purchase the infringing audiobooks using promotional codes provided to Chizitere upon opening accounts with the victim company. Chizitere directed others to leave positive reviews of the infringing audiobooks on the company’s platform to increase the likelihood that others would download the content, resulting in greater royalty payments to Chizitere.
The counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud each carry a maximum potential punishment of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the gross loss or gain caused by the offense, whichever is greatest. The counts of copyright fraud each carry a maximum penalty of up to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony P. Torntore, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Cybercrime Unit.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.