Kenyan national arraigned on wire fraud charges
Man accused of defrauding Bernalillo County through wire transfer scheme
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Oscar Kipikirui Ngeno, 41, was arraigned in federal court on March 30 on an indictment charging him with ten counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. Ngeno will remain on conditions of release pending trial.
A federal grand jury indicted Ngeno on Feb. 24. According to the indictment and other court records, from October through December of 2019 Ngeno, a citizen of Kenya who was present in New York on an immigrant visa, allegedly engaged in a scheme to deceive and defraud the government of Bernalillo County, New Mexico.
As alleged in the indictment, Bernalillo County received an email intended to appear to come from a legitimate vendor, CDW Government Inc., which had provided products and services to the county for which payment was due. The spoofed email included a completed automated clearinghouse (ACH) form used by Bernalillo County to establish or change automated payments electronically to vendor bank accounts. The email also included an image of a voided check showing the same routing and account numbers listed on the ACH form. The email provided a telephone number that was represented as a contact number for CDW, but actually belonged to Ngeno.
The routing and account number provided caused the county to send payments to an account owned and controlled by Ngeno. Between October and December of 2019, the county sent payments totaling $447,372.89 to Ngeno’s account. Ngeno then allegedly distributed a portion of the funds to his co-conspirators, including by issuing checks totaling $98,930.
“As our technologies and banking systems evolve, so do the strategies of thieves and fraudsters,” said Fred J. Federici, United States Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “For this reason, we continue to encourage heightened vigilance with respect to unsolicited email requests. The responsibility for these crimes rests entirely with the perpetrators. However, we can each do our part by taking every precaution, such as scrutinizing email addresses and verifying contact information. We will do our part by prosecuting those who attempt to deceive our citizens and institutions.”
“When governments are victimized by fraud, especially one as large as what Bernalillo County experienced, taxpayers and residents are the ones who can get cheated,” said Raul Bujanda, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Albuquerque Field Office. “The FBI will use all its resources to go after those who would steal funds that could provide critical services like public safety and health care. We also want to reiterate the importance of government agencies and businesses learning as much as they can about internet fraud and how to protect themselves.”
An indictment is only an allegation. A defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty. If convicted, Ngeno faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.
The Albuquerque Field Office of the FBI investigated this case with assistance from the Buffalo Field Office and the Rochester Resident Agency. Assistant United States Attorney Taylor Hartstein is prosecuting the case.