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Financial Crimes
01/15/2013

Nigerian man pleads guilty to wire fraud charges in craigslist scam

PHILADELPHIA – A Nigerian man pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to wire fraud. The guilty plea is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Adebowale Ayodeji Owoaje, 31, pleaded guilty to a scheme to defraud individuals who were selling items and applying for jobs on Internet website craigslist. Using various aliases when he was located overseas, Owoaje used email to reach an agreement with the individuals on the sale price of items or terms of employment, including funds for a purported bonus or training materials.

From overseas, Owoaje sent counterfeit cashier's checks to his co-conspirators in the United States. Based on instructions from Owoaje, a co-conspirator typed amounts on counterfeit cashier's checks that exceeded the sales price or bonus agreed to by Owaoje and the individuals. The co-conspirator then mailed the counterfeit cashier's checks to the individuals.

Owoaje informed individuals that a check in the wrong amount was sent to them by "mistake." He then asked individuals to deposit that check in their bank account and to keep the amount Owoaje owed the individual, plus an additional sum for their trouble. Owoaje instructed individuals to wire the balance of the money via Western Union to a co-conspirator, whom Owoaje falsely represented to individuals as his secretary or shipping agent. Only after wiring this money did individuals learn that the cashier's checks they received were counterfeit.

"HSI aggressively pursues these scam artists, even when they concoct and perpetrate their schemes from a foreign country with a perceived sense of anonymity and security," said John P. Kelleghan, special agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia. "This case also serves as a reminder to U.S. citizens that if a business proposition sounds too good to be true, it probably is a scheme. HSI special agents were successful in identifying a manipulative criminal, who is now being held accountable for his crimes."

Owoaje is scheduled to be sentenced April 15, 2013 and faces up to 80 years in federal prison, a three-year period of supervised release and a fine of up to $1 million.