Emeka Nnawuba Opened Bank Accounts with Fake Identities and Laundered Nearly $1,000,000 in Fraud Proceeds
New York – Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and David E. Beach, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service (“USSS”), announced today that EMEKA NNAWUBA, a/k/a “Benjamin Alabie,” who is a member of the United States Army Reserves, has been charged with participating in a scheme to defraud banks and launder the proceeds of frauds perpetrated against dozens of victims. NNAWUBA was arrested late yesterday, and will be presented today before Chief United States Magistrate Judge Erin L. Wiedemann in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The case has been assigned to United States District Judge Katherine Polk Failla.
U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said: “Emeka Nnawuba allegedly laundered money for a scheme that trolled dating websites in order to steal money from the accounts of unsuspecting women. Especially so close to Valentine’s Day, this case serves as a cautionary reminder to be especially wary of those who view dating sites as a predatory opportunity. Nnawuba’s alleged luck in love has run out, as he potentially faces a lengthy period of time alone . . . in federal prison.”
U.S. Secret Service White Plains Resident Agent-in-Charge Julie Goodwin said: “The charges announced today illustrate the Secret Service’s commitment to aggressively investigating financial crimes. I would like to thank HSI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their cooperation and partnership in this case.”
According to the allegations in the Superseding Indictment:
From at least 2016 until 2018, NNAWUBA participated in a scheme to defraud banks and launder the proceeds of frauds perpetrated against dozens of victims. Among other things, NNAWUBA used false identities and false passports to open bank accounts; received or attempted to receive nearly $1,000,000 in fraud proceeds; withdrew tens of thousands of dollars of fraud proceeds in cash; and transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars of fraud proceeds to bank accounts controlled by co-conspirators in an effort to conceal the source of funds.
The funds laundered by NNAWUBA were procured principally by (a) romance scams, in which members of the scheme trolled dating websites to find unsuspecting women and stole their money on false pretenses; and (b) business compromise scams, in which members of the scheme impersonated individuals, professionals, or businesses in the course of otherwise ordinary financial transactions, and then fraudulently induced the counterparties to those transactions to transfer funds to bank accounts controlled and operated by NNAWUBA or other members of the scheme.
NNAWUBA, 29, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, is charged with one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and one count of participating in a conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
Five other individuals previously were charged and pled guilty in connection with their participation in the scheme.
On February 12, 2018, Ifeanyi Ezeji pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit money laundering. On May 31, 2018, Judge Failla sentenced IFEANYI EZEJI to 40 months in prison and three years of supervised release, and ordered him to forfeit $2,080,347.14 and pay restitution in the amount of $873,891.31.
On May 31, 2018, Christopher Ezeji pled guilty to passport counterfeiting. On October 4, 2018, Judge Failla sentenced Christopher Ezeji to five years of probation, and ordered him to forfeit $500.00 and pay restitution in the amount of $873,891.31.
On June 22, 2018, Peter Abbah pled guilty to aggravated identity theft. On October 2, 2018, Judge Failla sentenced Abbah to 24 months in prison and one year of supervised release, and ordered him pay restitution in the amount of $218,498.76.
On July 27, 2018, Michael Akhiero pled guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit bank fraud. Akhiero is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Failla on March 14, 2019.
On January 11, 2019, Okechukwu Peter Ezika pled guilty to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. Ezika is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Failla on April 10, 2019.
Mr. Berman praised the outstanding investigative work of the USSS, and thanked United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations for its assistance.
The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Juliana N. Murray and Robert B. Sobelman are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Superseding Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
SOURCE: news provided by JUSTICE.GOV on February 12, 2019.