Federal Judge Sentences Defendant in Fraudulent "Sweepstakes" Scheme
In Austin today, a federal judge sentenced 55-year-old Akintola Akinmadeyemi to 120 months imprisonment for his role in an estimated $340 million intended-loss fraudulent “sweepstakes” scheme, announced U.S. Attorney John F. Bash; Special Agent in Charge Richard D. Goss, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), Houston Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Shane Folden, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), San Antonio; and, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzalez, U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), Houston Division.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ordered that Akinmadeyemi pay $111,870.25 in restitution and be placed on supervised release for a period of three years after completing his prison term.
On May 17, 2019, Akinmadeyemi pleaded guilty to one count of attempt and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In addition to Akinmadeyemi, seven other defendants were charged in the scheme: Austin residents Joel Calvin, age 32, and Clarence Barefield (aka CJ), age 41, Mesquite, TX, resident Donna Lundy, age 55; Nigerian citizens and Canadian residents Harry Cole (aka Akintomide Ayoola Bolu, aka John King, aka Big Bro, aka Egbon), age 49; Emmanuel Olawle Ajayi (aka Wale, aka Walata), age 42; Tony Dada Akinbobola (aka Lawrence D Awoniyi, aka Boss Tony, aka Toyin), age 48; and Bolaji Akinwunmi Oyewole (aka BJ, aka Beejay), age 32. Calvin and Barefield previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering; Lundy pleaded guilty to wire fraud. All three remain pending sentencing.
The remaining defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud (Sweepstakes) and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Emmanuel Ajayi also faces a second conspiracy-to-commit-wire-fraud charge (Stolen Identity Refund Fraud or SIRF) and an aggravated identity theft charge. Lundy also faces one substantive count of wire fraud.
According to the indictment, the defendants carried out their sweepstakes scheme from 2012 to 2016. Charging $1 per name, Lundy collected over $700,000 by selling lists of elderly potential victims and their addresses to Cole in Canada. Cole and other conspirators based in the Toronto, Ontario Canada metropolitan area sent packages containing fraudulent sweepstakes information to conspirators residing in the U.S. The packages contained thousands of mailers, which U.S.-based conspirators sent to victims notifying them that they had won a sweepstakes. Each mailer included a fraudulent check issued in the name of the victim, usually in the amount of $8,000, and a pre-addressed envelope. Victims were instructed to deposit the check into their bank account, immediately withdraw between $5,000 and $7,000 dollars in cash or money orders and send the money to a “sweepstakes representative” to facilitate the victim collecting his or her prize. By the time the victim was notified by the bank that the deposited check was fraudulent, the cash or money order had been sent by the victim and received by the defendants or conspirators. The intended loss from this scheme was in excess of $250 million, with an actual loss of more than $900,000.
The indictment also alleges that from June 2015 through June 2016, Emmanuel Ajayi led a SIRF scheme in which over 1,200 fraudulent Income Tax Returns were filed using stolen Personal Identifying Information (PII) requesting $25 million in tax refunds. Ajayi used bank accounts involved in the sweepstakes scheme to receive refunds and funnel the money to conspirators in the U.S. An IRS analysis determined that this scheme resulted in the actual loss of approximately $3.4 million paid from the U.S. Treasury.
In order to acquire the money generated by the Sweepstakes and SIRF schemes, the conspirators operated a money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. That conspiracy employed knowing and unknowing participants to conduct financial transactions with the goals of moving the proceeds from both fraudulent schemes outside of the U.S. without detection by law enforcement.
Aggravated identity theft calls for a mandatory two years imprisonment upon conviction. Each of the remaining charges call for up to 20 years in federal prison upon conviction.
Defendants Cole and Akinbobola were arrested on September 25, 2018, in Canada and are awaiting extradition to the U.S. The whereabouts of Defendants Ajayi and Oyewole are unknown and they are considered fugitives. Barefield is scheduled for sentencing May 5, 2020. Defendants Calvin and Lundy are scheduled for sentencing on September 9, 2020.
Akinmadeyemi has remained in federal custody since his arrest on September 26, 2018. Today he was remanded into U. S. Marshal custody to begin serving his sentence.
This case is being investigated by IRS-CI, HSI, and USPIS. Assistant United States Attorneys Michael C. Galdo and Neeraj Gupta are prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
It is important to note that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.