NEW YORK — Two were charged in federal court Wednesday following a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the New York City Police Department (NYPD). Thomas Irigoyen and Nicholas Ofei Cofie were charged with conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud actors in New York City and elsewhere. Irigoyen was arrested in California and will be presented today before a U.S. Magistrate Judge of the Central District of California, and Cofie was arrested in New York City and presented in federal court in Manhattan.
“These charges reflect the increasingly sophisticated ways criminals target people eager to find success in new and potentially lucrative careers. Something that will never change, however, is the focused determination of the NYPD and our law enforcement partners to keep people safe by fighting crime wherever it may lurk – including in the dark corners of cyberspace. I thank the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District and Homeland Security Investigations, whose members helped us uncover and identify the individuals named in this complaint. Together, we demonstrate time and again that we are patient and that our collaborative forces have a long reach. We will continue to be relentless in our mission to dismantle these types of operations and bring those who run them to justice,” said NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
“As alleged, Irigoyen and Cofie preyed on actors in New York and elsewhere, falsely offering their victims the chance to act in commercials, and ‘paying’ them upfront fees with fictitious money orders or checks. The victims were then allegedly duped into paying phantom ‘wardrobe consultants’ by withdrawing funds against the bogus money orders, and left liable for the withdrawals. The defendants’ own alleged role-playing performances have earned them arrests on federal charges,” stated U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey S. Berman.
According to the allegations in the Complaint sworn out in Manhattan federal court, between approximately December 2016 and the present, Irigoyen and Cofie participated in a conspiracy that took advantage of aspiring actors. As part of the scheme, Irigoyen and Cofie offered aspiring actors the opportunity to act in a commercial, provided those actors with an upfront payment in the form of a fake money order or check, and persuaded the actors to withdraw money against the fake money orders or checks and to transfer a substantial portion of the withdrawn money to so-called “wardrobe consultants” via wire transfer, the mail, and converting the money into cryptocurrency.
In the end, the jobs promised to the actors were fictitious, the financial instruments provided to the actors were fake, and the wardrobe consultants were non-existent. The victims of the scheme were left liable for the value of the fake financial instruments they had deposited into and transferred out of their respective bank accounts.
In the course of the conspiracy, Irigoyen purchased postage and mailed more than 450 envelopes from fictitious production companies to actors. Irigoyen also received payments that actors believed they were sending to “wardrobe consultants.” A bank account controlled by Cofie was presented to at least one actor-victim as an account affiliated with a “wardrobe consultant.”
In addition to the scheme described above, Cofie is also charged with one count of wire fraud for his role in defrauding a female who was tricked into believing she was entering a romantic relationship with a third party and who then transferred thousands of dollars into bank accounts under Cofie’s control.
Irigoyen, 51, of Kingsburg, California, and Cofie, 36, of the Bronx, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Cofie is separately charged with an additional count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants will be determined by the judge.
This case is being handled by SDNY’s General Crimes Unit. The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.