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July 25, 2023Baltimore, MD, United StatesFinancial Crimes

HSI Baltimore investigation lands Nigerian citizen almost 4 years in prison for $1.5M fraud scheme

Conspirators opened fraudulent bank accounts to receive money from victims of business email compromise scheme and romance scams

BALTIMORE — An investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore and its partners resulted in a 46-month federal prison sentence for a Nigerian citizen for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Akolade Ojo, 31, of Owings Mills, received the 46-month prison sentence followed by three years of supervised release at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore on July 5. Ojo must also pay $1,320,186.19 in restitution.

“Akolade Ojo employed an elaborate and deceptive scheme to swindle numerous people out of their money,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris. “Because of his egregious behavior, he is heading to federal prison and must repay more than $1 million. Because individuals like Ojo choose to operate illicitly, we must pursue and apprehend them quickly to minimize the financial harm against the citizens we have sworn to protect.”

According to the investigation, Ojo’s charges stemmed from fraud schemes in which he communicated with his co-conspirators about the receipt of money from victims into bank accounts controlled by the conspirators. Ojo also instructed his co-conspirators about withdrawals, transfers and purchases of cashier’s checks using the fraudulently obtained funds.

The investigation revealed that from August 2018 until November 2020, Ojo and his co-conspirators, some of whom were located outside the United States, defrauded multiple businesses, individuals and financial institutions. As part of the fraud schemes, Ojo’s co-conspirators obtained fake passports and other identification documents in multiple aliases, created and used limited liability companies to hide their identities, and opened bank accounts in the names on the identification documents or the limited liability companies.

Other conspirators made false representations to companies and individuals to induce them to fraudulently send money to the bank accounts controlled by the conspirators. These false representations included hacking into email accounts to impersonate people and redirect legitimate payments for products and services, deceiving victims about how to pay vendors’ legitimate invoices through lookalike email addresses, and romance frauds.

The investigation illustrated that Ojo and his co-conspirators used an encrypted messaging app to communicate the timing of financial transactions, including directing members of the conspiracy regarding deposits, withdrawals, transfers and conversions.

Ojo admitted that he was involved in numerous financial transactions in which money was directed to aliases his co-conspirators were using and that he personally benefited from the money. Ojo knew the fraud schemes involved more than 15 business and individual victims with losses of at least $1.5 million.

Ojo was the final defendant charged in the conspiracy to be sentenced. In May 2022, co-defendant Idowu Raji, 40, of Baltimore County, was sentenced to 94 months in federal prison for this and a related case. Hameed Adesokan, 35, of New Jersey, and Damilola Lawal, 32, of Windsor Mill, were each sentenced to 46 months in federal prison for their roles in the fraud scheme. Adewumi Abioye, 35, of Randallstown, and Lukman Salam, 37, of Bear, Delaware, were sentenced to 27 months and 30 months in federal prison, respectively. Olatunde Vincent, 35, of Pikesville, was sentenced to 50 months in prison for a related case.

This investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore; the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service; the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General for the National Capital Region; and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Washington, D.C. division with significant assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland.

HSI is 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 more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 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.