Essex County Woman Admits Role in $25 Million Securities Fraud Scheme Involving Blockchain Technology Company
CAMDEN, N.J. – A Pennsylvania man today admitted his role in a bank fraud conspiracy that targeted 12 different financial institutions in southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.
Muritala Adeowo, 57, of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty before U.S. district Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden federal court to an indictment charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Adeowo was part of a multi-defendant, Nigerian-based, multi-layered criminal organization that engaged in a bank fraud conspiracy in several states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Rhode Island, between June 2016 and March 2020. Members of the group acquired numerous business checks that were stolen from the United States mail, altered the payee on the checks to a fraudulent name and deposited the checks into bank accounts that had been opened with forged foreign passport documents and fraudulent U.S. visas that matched the names on the stolen checks. Once the banks credited all or a portion of the funds to the accounts, but before the checks had cleared, the defendants withdrew the funds from ATMs or purchased money orders, using debit cards associated with the fraudulent accounts. Members of the organization have used over 400 fraudulent accounts opened with fake identity documents to defraud the victim banks. To date, the total loss to the victim banks is approximately $7 million.
Adeowo admitted that he obtained fraudulent foreign passports for some of the conspirators that were used to open fraudulent accounts at the victim banks. Adeowo also admitted that he obtained stolen business checks from other conspirators that were then altered to change the payee on the check to match the fraudulent identity documents of the conspirator who would be depositing the check. On Aug. 25, 2020, Adeowo was arrested at his residence. Federal agents executed a federal search warrant and seized several stolen business checks that were found in Adeowo’s bedroom.
The bank fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million. Sentencing is scheduled for March 16, 2023.
U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Bellmawr office and Philadelphia Division Office, under the direction of Acting Inspector in Charge Raimundo Marrero; U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Washington, D.C., Division Office, under the direction of Inspector in Charge Damon Wood; Homeland Security Investigations, Cherry Hill Office and Newark Division Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ricky J. Patel; Homeland Security Investigations, Philadelphia Division Office, under the Direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge William S. Walker; Homeland Security Investigations, Maryland Division Office, under the direction of James R. Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge, Baltimore, Maryland; Homeland Security Investigations Rhode Island Office, under the direction of Matthew Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge, Boston Division Office; and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), under the direction of R. Mike Escott, Resident Agent in Charge, Philadelphia Resident Office, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
Six other conspirators have previously pleaded guilty, and one conspirator was convicted in a trial before Judge Hillman in June 2022. Five of these defendants have pending sentencing hearings before Judge Hillman. Charges against four other defendants remain pending – the charges against them are merely accusations, and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick C. Askin and Daniel Friedman of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Criminal Division in Camden.