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Nigerian national sentenced in scheme to ship stolen vehicles to West Africa

BALTIMORE — A 53-year-old Nigerian citizen illegally residing in Laurel was sentenced Monday to 21 months in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for conspiring to commit interstate transportation of stolen vehicles. The sentence follows an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Baltimore and the Prince George's County Police Department Vehicle Enforcement Unit.

Eric Olaniyan must pay $65,040.46 in restitution. Upon completion of his prison term, he will be transferred into ICE custody for immigration removal proceedings.

According to Olaniyan's plea agreement, from 2012 through April 22, 2013, Olaniyan and others shipped stolen cars from the United States to countries in West Africa for resale. The conspirators hired other individuals to steal the vehicles with the keys, so that the vehicles could be more easily sold. Olaniyan received cash to store the stolen vehicles at a parking lot or other locations known as "cooling spots." The stolen vehicles were subsequently loaded into containers and shipped to buyers in Africa.

In early March 2013, a Prince George's County Police detective located three stolen vehicles parked near Olaniyan's residence. Law enforcement tracked the movement of the vehicles through April 2. All eventually ended up at warehouses used for loading shipping containers that are exported from the United States. On April 12, the CBP Baltimore Vehicle Export Team examined the contents of a container and located the three stolen vehicles, as well as a fourth vehicle which had also been reported stolen.

On April 22, 2013, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Olaniyan's apartment. Subsequently, HSI Baltimore special agents seized eight stolen vehicles found parked in the area. The keys to all eight stolen vehicles were seized from Olaniyan's apartment, along with a counterfeit vehicle title for one of the vehicles.

Losses resulting from the Olaniyan's portion of the stolen vehicle scheme amounted to more than $200,000.

The Howard County Police Department, the Maryland State Police and the Regional Auto Theft Task Force assisted in the investigation.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok in the District of Maryland.