Following its recent sanctions of six Nigerians for alleged internet-related fraud, the United States government has arraigned 11 more Nigerian in another case of alleged $6 million bank fraud.
The U.S. Department of Justice in a statement on Thursday said the Nigerian nationals were arraigned before Justice Joel Schneider of District court of New Jersey.
The accused are Sulaiman Dosunmu, 39; Tunde Adeowo, 40; Muritala Adeowo, 55; Ayanniyi Alayande, 47; Ahmed Ponle, 41; Margiettu Kamu, 34; Rafiat Sarumi, 36; Babatunde Oke, 40; Adekunle Owolabi, 49; Olayinka Olaseinde, 42; and Olugbenga Oyedele, 47.
The U.S. treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, had earlier announced the sanctioning of six Nigerians for allegedly scamming U.S. businesses and individuals through business email compromise (BEC) and romance fraud of over $6 million.
But in Thursday’s court hearing, the U.S. Attorney, Craig Carpenito, said the 11 are members of a Nigeria-based, multi-layered organisation that engaged in a massive bank fraud conspiracy in several states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island.
The alleged fraudulent acts were committed between June 2016 and March this year, according to the statement.
Mr Carpenito added that the accused used debit cards to purchase money orders from third party stores to purchase used automobiles exported to Nigeria and other African countries at the higher market values.
Mr Carpenito noted that if found guilty, the 11 could face a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million.
“Members of the group stole numerous business checks from the United States mail, altered the payee on the checks with over 400 fraudulent accounts with fake identity documents to defraud several major banks of $6 million and then launder that money and send it overseas to other conspirators.
“The organisation also used fraudulent name and deposited the checks in bank accounts that had been opened with forged foreign passport documents and fraudulent U.S. visas that matched the names on the stolen checks.
“Once the banks credited all or a portion of the funds to the accounts – but before the checks had cleared – the defendants withdrew the funds from ATMs or purchased money orders, using debit cards associated with the fraudulent accounts,” Mr Carpenito said.