Two identity thieves charged in federal court
Alleged to have stolen victim identities from federal student aid website FAFSA
Indianapolis – United States Attorney Josh Minkler announced the indictment of two men in an elaborate scheme of aggravated identity theft, identity theft, false claims, and conspiracy. Taiwo K. Onamuti, 29, Doraville, Georgia, and Muideen A. Adebule, 49, Indianapolis, Indiana, were indicted on 23 federal charges relating to the fraud scheme.
“The Onamuti organization is responsible for stealing the identities of thousands of victims, including students who were simply trying to apply for financial aid,” said Minkler. “The organization’s criminal conduct disrupted countless lives, and led to the theft of more than $12 million from the United States Treasury—money that could and should have been spent for the benefit of the taxpayer.”
The 23-count indictment alleges that from March 2014, through March 2016, Onamuti, Adebule, and others in the conspiracy, acquired personal identifying information (names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers) of victims by either purchasing it via E-mail, or by obtaining the information through the Data Retrieval Tool on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) website. The organization would then use the stolen information to file false tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.
The indictment further alleges that Onamuti and his organization then used the stolen identity information to file thousands of false and fraudulent electronic tax returns, and directed the IRS to deposit the refunds onto prepaid debit cards purchased by Adebule and others. The organization then used the debit cards to purchase money orders at several locations in Indiana and Georgia. In total, Onamuti, Adebule, and others unlawfully obtained or attempted to obtain approximately $12,686,634 in federal tax refunds.
In March, the Department of Education and IRS removed the data retrieval tool from the fafsa.gov and StudentLoans.gov web sites until extra security protections could be added. The removal of the tool at the height of financial aid application season disrupted the application process for parents and students who were trying to prepare and submit FAFSA forms.
This case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Education and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
“The announcement of today’s indictment and arrest illustrates the tremendous work of IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners to defend innocent taxpayers from the abuse of their stolen personal information, said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Gabriel Grchan. “This type of crime not only results in theft of taxpayer funds, but also has a damaging impact to those victims whose personal information was used without authorization. IRS Criminal Investigation aggressively investigators all persons engaged in this type of criminal activity.”
"I'm proud of the work of our staff and our law enforcement colleagues whose efforts brought about today's actions," said Robert Mancuso, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Inspector General (OIG) Technology Crimes Division, the OIG unit that works to protect ED programs and network infrastructure by investigating technology crimes, providing digital forensic services, and conducting proactive data analytics. "The OIG will continue to use our high-tech investigative and analytical capabilities to aggressively pursue those who misuse ED systems and programs in order to line their pockets with someone else's hard earned money. America's taxpayers and students deserve nothing less."
Assistant United States Attorney Tiffany J. Preston, who is prosecuting the case for the government, said that the charges carry maximum sentences of five to fifteen years’ imprisonment, and for the aggravated identity theft charges, two years’ imprisonment to be served consecutively.
An indictment is only a charge and not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in federal court.