(STL.News) – A federal grand jury has indicted three foreign nationals residing in Baltimore County for a bank fraud scheme in which the defendants and their co-conspirators obtained or attempted to obtain more than $3.5 million. The defendants, Damilola Lawal, a/k/a DML, D Baba, and Dami, age 31, of Windsor Mill, Maryland, Idowu Ademola Raji, a/k/a ID, King Soso, and James, age 39, of Pikesville, Maryland; and Akolade Ojo, a/k/a Kola and Boogz, age 30, of Owings Mills, Maryland are charged with a federal wire fraud conspiracy, wire fraud, passport fraud, and aggravated identity theft. The indictment was returned on October 26, 2020, and was unsealed at their initial appearances late on November 4, 2020.
The indictment was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge John Eisert of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Special Agent in Charge Edwin Guard of the Washington Field Office of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
According to the 12-count indictment, from August 2018 and continuing until October 26, 2020, the defendants conspired with Adewumi Abioye, Hameed Adesokan, Lukman Salam, and another person to defraud victim businesses and victim financial institutions. Specifically, the indictment alleges that the defendants and their co-conspirators used false, forged, and counterfeited passports and other identification documents that contained the facial images of co-conspirators but not their real names. They used the forged documents to create limited liability companies, and to open fraudulent bank accounts, often where the only authorized signatory was an alias or stolen identity used by the defendants and their co-conspirators. The defendants and their co-conspirators used a messaging app to communicate the timing of financial transactions, including directing members of the conspiracy regarding the deposit, withdrawal, transfer, and conversion of fraudulently obtained funds.
For example, as detailed in the indictment, on September 17, 2019, a co-conspirator sent a victim a fraudulent e-mail purporting to be from the victim’s attorney, advising the victim to send a $65,000 wire transfer to an account controlled by Salam as part of a real estate purchase. Lawal used the messaging app to send photographs and messages to Salam to show that the victim was making the wire transfer and listed a reference number. Once the funds had arrived in the account, Lawal instructed Salam to obtain a cashier’s check and make cash withdrawals so Salam could pay some of the cash to Lawal. Similarly, the indictment alleges that between October 5, 2018 and October 9, 2018, Salam engaged in numerous financial transactions at Raji’s direction, after a co-conspirator fraudulently obtained $390,000 from a victim business by sending the victim business e-mails purporting to come from an employee of one of the victim business’ service providers and requesting that payment be wired to an account in the name of Salam’s alias, Matthew John. Salam then allegedly purchased checks, made cash withdrawals, and engaged in ATM and point of sale transactions using a debit card, in order to obtain access to the fraudulently obtained funds and to conceal their further use.
According to the indictment, on June 11, 2019, Lawal alerted Abioye that fraud proceeds from another victim business were being sent to a bank account that Abioye had opened using a fraudulent passport in the name of Andrew Ali. The account was registered to Geotric Global LLC, and listed Andrew Ali as the only signatory. That same day, the victim business sent a $339,680.63 ACH transfer to the account, believing it was paying a legitimate services vendor after receiving fraudulent e-mails purporting to be from the vendor, and providing payment instructions. On December 30, 2019, Ojo received a $33,729 cashier’s check purchased by a co-conspirator using part of the $66,278.81 fraudulently obtained from a victim business. Ojo provided the check to Salam for deposit. Between December 2019 and January 2019, Salam engaged in multiple withdrawals from the account where the fraudulent funds were deposited and provided Ojo with a portion of the proceeds from the fraud of the victim business.
If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for the wire fraud conspiracy and for each count of wire fraud. Lawal also faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for passport fraud; and Raji faces a mandatory sentence of two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence imposed for aggravated identity theft. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. At today’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Boardman ordered that that all three defendants be detained pending a detention hearing. Detention hearings for Ojo and Lawal are scheduled for November 13, 2020, at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., respectively, and a detention hearing for Raji is scheduled for November 18, 2020 at 11:30 a.m.
In a separate federal case in Maryland, Nigerian nationals Abioye, age 33, of Baltimore, and Salam, age 36, of New Jersey and Delaware, have pleaded guilty to related federal charges are awaiting sentencing. Adesokan, age 33, also of New Jersey and Delaware, is scheduled to go to trial, although no date has been set.
An indictment is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by indictment is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended HSI and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service for their work in the investigation and thanked the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for its assistance. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Harry M. Gruber and Dana Brusca, who are prosecuting the case.