CAMDEN, N.J. – Eleven people have been charged for their alleged roles in a large-scale conspiracy to commit bank fraud over in southern New Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania over the course of four years, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced today.
The complaints unsealed today charge each of the defendants with bank fraud conspiracy in connection with a scheme that used hundreds of fraudulent accounts to defraud several major banks of $6 million and then launder that money and send it overseas to other conspirators.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The defendants are allegedly members of a Nigeria-based, multi-layered organization that engaged in a massive bank fraud conspiracy in several states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Rhode Island, between June 2016 and March 2020. Members of the group stole numerous business checks from the United States mail, altered the payee on the checks to a 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. Members of the organization have used over 400 fraudulent accounts with fake identity documents to defraud the banks.
The organization also laundered the proceeds of the fraud by several means, including using debit cards to purchase money orders from third party stores and using those money orders to purchase used automobiles from different automobile auction companies in Pennsylvania. The vehicles were then exported to Nigeria and other countries in Africa to launder the stolen funds and to increase profits by selling the vehicles at the higher market values obtained for vehicles in these foreign countries.
The bank fraud conspiracy count carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1 million.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Damon E. Wood, Inspector in Charge, Philadelphia Division, and Peter R. Rendina, Inspector in Charge, Washington Division; the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason Molina in Newark, Special Agent in Charge Brian A. Michael in Philadelphia, Special Agent in Charge John Ernst in Baltimore, and Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Shea in Boston Division; and the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), New York Field Office and Philadelphia Resident Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy W. Dumas, with the investigation leading to the charges. He also thanked the U.S. Marshals Service and the Pennsylvania State Police for their assistance.