Former Fugitive Pleads Guilty to Multi-Million-Dollar Sophisticated Fraud Scheme with Ties to Nigeria
|U.S. Attorney’s Office June 21, 2013|
ALEXANDRIA, VA—Tobechi Eyinna Onwuhara, 33, of Dallas, Texas, pleaded guilty today to charges of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and computer fraud.
Neil H. MacBride, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Valerie Parlave, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; David E. Beach, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service’s Washington Field Office; and Earl L. Cook, Alexandria Chief of Police, made the announcement after the plea was accepted by United States District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Onwuhara was charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and a federal warrant was issued for his arrest on August 1, 2008. He was later indicted by a federal grand jury on April 21, 2011. He was arrested in Australia after more than four years as a fugitive. Onwuhara faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison on the conspiracy to commit bank fraud charge alone when he is sentenced on September 20, 2013.
According to court records, Onwuhara is the ringleader of a group of Nigerians who used fee-based web databases to search for potential victim account holders with large balances in home equity line of credit (HELOC) accounts. This information included name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number. Once the conspirators identified a victim, they used other online databases to obtain information commonly used in security questions, such as the victim’s mother’s maiden name. The conspirators then obtained credit reports on the victims in order to verify personal information and account balances.
Armed with a victim’s personal information, the conspirators called the victim’s financial institution, impersonated the victim, and transferred the majority of the available money from the HELOC account into an account from which a wire transfer could be sent. The conspirators would then wire transfer hundreds of thousands of dollars to domestic or overseas accounts controlled by members of the conspiracy. The conspirators used caller-ID spoofing services, prepaid cell phones, and PC wireless Internet access cards and transferred victims’ home telephone numbers in order to impersonate the victim and avoid identifying themselves.
Once the fraudulently transferred funds arrived in the destination bank, a conspirator with access to the account would withdraw funds and transfer them to other members of the conspiracy after taking a portion of the proceeds for himself.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, United States Secret Service’s Washington Field Office, and the Alexandria Police Department, with assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service. Assistant United States Attorneys Alexander T.H. Nguyen and Lindsay Kelly are prosecuting the case on behalf of the United States
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae.