2 Nevada men charged with defrauding victims out of $3.3 million in home rental scheme
LAS VEGAS – Two Las Vegas residents have been indicted for defrauding people seeking to rent houses out of $3.3 million, through a scheme that involved using multiple false identities and counterfeit drivers’ licenses.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service investigated the case.
According to allegations in court documents, from about March 2018 until about September 2019, Norbert Ozemena Ikwuegbundo, 28, and Omniyi Jonathan Omotere, 35, both citizens of Nigeria, and others, engaged in the following fraudulent scheme:
- The defendants assumed the identities of homeowners who were advertising on websites to rent their properties.
- They posted imposter rental advertisements online at reduced rent prices, using the names and personal identifiers of true homeowners — but changing the contact information to email addresses and phone numbers controlled by the defendants.
- Using wire transmission instructions provided by the defendants through emails and text messages, prospective renters wired money for first and last month’s rent (and security deposits) to commercial businesses that provide wire transfer services to their customers.
- The defendants used various lulling techniques, such as sending false rental agreements for victims to sign, so that they would have more time to pick up the wired money.
- The defendants laundered proceeds from the scheme by using some of the stolen money to buy cars at auction.
Ikwuegbundo and Omotere are both charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, Omotere is charged with one count of wire fraud, while Ikwuegbundo is charged with two counts of wire fraud, one count of possessing equipment used to make counterfeit drivers’ licenses, one count of concealment money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Ikwuebundo made his initial court appearance on Aug.11, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna J. Youchah. Omotere made his initial appearance Thursady before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe. A jury trial has been scheduled for Oct. 18. If convicted, Ikwuegbundo faces a statutory maximum penalty of 97 years in prison; and Omotere faces a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
A criminal indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Kimberly M. Frayn is prosecuting the case.
HSI is a directorate of ICE and the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move.
HSI’s workforce of over 10,400 employees consists of more than 7,100 special agents assigned to 220 cities throughout the United States, and 80 overseas locations in 53 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.