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How two Nigerian businessmen defraud US banks of $606,598

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

Two Nigerian businessmen based in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom have been convicted after they conspired and used forged documents to obtain over $606,598 from commercial banks in the US.

They were 55-year-old Babatunde Ajibawo, a Nigerian residing in Essex, United Kingdom while the accomplice, 35-year-old Oyekanmi Oworu, of Hyattsville in Maryland, US and have testified before Justice Catherine Blake at the court in Baltimore, Maryland.

While Oworu’s has been scheduled to be sentenced next year, March 10, 2022 at about 9:15 a.m, Ajibawo, who was brought back from the UK for sentence, has been handed four years imprisonment, followed by four years of supervised release, for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and would be expected to pay $262,653.87 in restitution.

Ajibawo’s sentence was announced yesterday by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek Barron; and Special Agent in Charge Andrew McKay of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

According to his plea agreement, from February 2017 to February 2020, Ajibawo and Oworu, and others conspired to fraudulently obtain checks made out to legitimate businesses, then fraudulently register shell companies to obtain state business certificates in the identical or similar name of the legitimate businesses to which the checks were made payable.

The conspiracy also used the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Modernized Internet Employer Identification Number (EIN) and the fraudulently obtained social security numbers of real individuals to obtain an EIN for the fraudulent business.

In the effort to defraud, Ajibawo personally opened fraudulent bank accounts, deposited stolen checks into the fraudulent accounts, and withdrew the stolen funds on numerous occasions.

Specifically, in October 2018 Ajibawo opened a fraudulent account in the name of a real business, Business 1, using the identifying information of a real person, C.B. After opening the account, Ajibawo deposited a stolen check made payable to Business 1 in the amount of $18,150.66 into the fraudulent account.

Additionally, from November 2018 to April 2019, Ajibawo opened and accessed a fraudulent account in the name of another real business, Business 2, using the identifying information of a real person, B.R. After opening the account, Ajibawo deposited a stolen check made payable to Business 2 in the amount of $168,500. Surveillance footage captured Ajibawo opening and accessing the fraudulent account on numerous occasions.

Throughout the scheme to defraud, Ajibawo sent personally-identifying information of victims to co-conspirators, directed that co-conspirators withdraw money from fraudulent accounts in which stolen checks had been deposited, and facilitated the distribution of stolen funds obtained from the scheme.

Additionally, in an effort to conceal their criminal activity and evade detection from law enforcement, Ajibawo and his co-conspirators attempted to relocate the fraud scheme to other jurisdictions. A substantial part of a fraudulent scheme was committed from outside the United States, specifically Nigeria.

Further, Ajibawo and his co-conspirators attempted to conceal their criminal actions and evade law enforcement by relocating the fraud scheme to other jurisdictions. A substantial part of a fraudulent scheme was committed from outside the United States, specifically Nigeria.

In total, Ajibawo and his co-conspirators created 50 fraudulent shell entities, caused an actual loss of at least $606,598.08, and compromised the identifying information of more than 50 individual victims.

After much investigation, the Co-defendant, Oworu, pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft on December 2, 2021.

Oworu faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison followed by up to five of supervised release for conspiracy to commit bank fraud and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence for aggravated identity theft.

As part of his plea agreement, Oworu will also be required to pay restitution. U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has scheduled sentencing for March 10, 2022 at 9:15 a.m.

The US Attorney Erek Barron commended the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for their work in the investigation. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Judson T. Mihok, who are prosecuting the case.

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