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Nigerian-born national's US citizenship revoked; sentenced to lengthy term for money laundering conspiracy, identity theft

HOUSTON - A Nigerian-born national's U.S. citizenship was revoked Tuesday, and he was sentenced to 14 ½ years in federal prison for conspiracy to launder funds, procuring U.S. citizenship by fraud and identity theft. U.S. Attorney Don DeGabrielle, Southern District of Texas, made the announcement; the case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Uzoma Okechukwu Osuagwu, 36, was sentenced to 175 months by U.S. District Judge David Hittner. The Judge revoked Osuagwu's U.S. citizenship since it was obtained by fraud; he also ordered that Osuagwu serve three years under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office after he is released from prison. However, ICE will place him into deportation proceedings following his release from prison.

Osuagwu pleaded guilty in February 2007 to one count of conspiracy to launder funds, one count of procuring naturalized U.S. citizenship by fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Court documents demonstrated that Osuagwu obtained stolen confidential bank account and identity information of numerous individuals which was used to transfer funds from the compromised accounts to bank accounts controlled by one of Osuagwu's co-conspirators. After the funds reached the controlled account, they were withdrawn by check writing, automated teller withdrawals, money order purchases and other financial transactions. Since the account and identity information could be used to transfer funds without the consent of the account holders, the information had value and was traded among the conspirators. Often one conspirator would purchase the information from Osuagwu and recruit others to open accounts and receive funds from the compromised accounts in exchange for a portion of the profits. Evidence showed that more than $6 million was removed from the compromised accounts and wired to the accounts controlled by Osuagwu's co-conspirators. Osuagwu was convicted of conspiracy to launder funds and aggravated identity theft regarding this scheme. He was sentenced to 151 months in federal prison for the money laundering offense, and 24 months for aggravated identity theft. Those sentences were ordered to be served consecutively.

Osuagwu, using the name Nnanna Okereke, was sentenced to 10 months in prison and five years supervised release for the felony offense of mail fraud in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, Oct. 20, 1997. Subsequently, the defendant, using the name Uzoma Okechukwu Osuagwu, became a naturalized U.S. citizen, July 30, 2002, in Houston. At that time, the defendant falsely represented in an application for naturalization filed with the then U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that he had not knowingly committed any crime, nor had he been arrested, cited, charged, convicted, fined or imprisoned for breaking any law in the United States, which would make the defendant ineligible to be admitted to citizenship because he was unable to establish good moral character. For this conduct, Osuagwu was convicted of the federal felony offense of procurement of naturalization by fraud and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. That sentence is to run concurrently with his sentences for money laundering and identity theft.

This case was investigated by inspectors of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and special agents of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman, Southern District of Texas.