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Nigerian man sentenced to 24 months in prison on wire fraud charges in craigslist scam

PHILADELPHIA — A Nigerian man was sentenced in federal court April 15 to 24 months in prison on wire fraud charges.

The sentence in the result of an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Adebowale Ayodeji Owoaje, 31, pleaded guilty in January 2013 to four counts of wire fraud in a scheme to defraud individuals who were selling items and applying for jobs on craigslist. Using various aliases when he was located overseas, Owoaje used e-mail 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.

In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Court Judge Mary A. McLaughlin ordered $193,175.86 in restitution, three years of supervised release and a $400 special assessment. Owoaje has been in federal custody since March 2012.

The HSI investigation revealed that 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.