Three people -- all Nigerian nationals and two from Baltimore County -- were arrested yesterday in an elaborate fraud and identity theft scheme that has been under investigation for 2 1/2 years by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Baltimore County Police. More than 35,000 people had their personal identification stolen as a result of these crimes.
Warrants were served at 17 locations, including 10 in Baltimore County.
Details of the Case
Here is the text of the U.S. Attorney's news article (released yesterday) on this case:
Baltimore, Maryland – Three Nigerian nationals were arrested today, charged by criminal complaint with fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with two schemes using stolen personal identification information. In addition to the arrests, more than 130 law enforcement officers from nine agencies executed 17 search warrants as part of this ongoing investigation.
Charged by criminal complaint are:
Omolaja Terry Iginla, age 25, of Laurel, Maryland;
Mayowa Olabiyi Towobola, age 24, of Parkville, Maryland; and
Hafis Omowonuola Oladokun, age 38, of Owings Mills, Maryland.
The charges and arrests were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Acting Special Agent in Charge Ivan Arvelo of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); Kathryn Montemorra, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office; and Chief James W. Johnson of the Baltimore County Police Department.
“Today’s enforcement sends a clear message to those who believe that the profit of cybercrime outweighs the risks of detection and capture,” said Ivan Arvelo, Acting Special Agent in Charge, HSI Baltimore. “The message is that you are not anonymous and you will be arrested. As we have shown, HSI and its law enforcement partners will vigorously pursue those who steal, peddle, and abuse the private information of American consumers.”
“This has been a complex and important fraud investigation that illustrates the commitment and cooperation of law enforcement personnel at all levels. With patience and a sound investigation, we ensure that perpetrators of such fraud will not get away with ruining the lives of innocent people,” said Baltimore County Police Chief James Johnson.
“Criminal conspiracies involving fraudulent refund schemes victimize our nation’s honest taxpayers,” said Kathryn Montemorra, Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Washington D.C. Field Office. “Today’s enforcement actions are a reminder that IRS-CI will remain vigilant in our investigation of these schemes and will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to combat this type of criminal conduct.”
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, the investigation began in 2013 when Iginla was initially arrested after accepting delivery for two fraudulent Ghanaian passports. A search warrant executed at Iginla’s apartment recovered, among other items, an Apple iPod which was found to contain the personal identification information (PII) of more than 35,000 individuals, including names, dates of birth, social security numbers, addresses, telephone numbers and email addresses; named text files; account numbers and security codes for numerous Green Dot & other prepaid debit cards; business names, addresses, and associated EIN numbers; monetary loss values contained within “text files” associated with the PII of many of the probable identity theft victims residing throughout the United States; and a digital image of a social security card of a probable identity theft victim. Digital forensic examination of an iOS address book uncovered from the laptop computers seized during the search revealed a contact for “Mayowa”, which is the first name of Towobola. The cellular telephone number is subscribed in the name of Hafis Omowonuola Oladokun.
According to the criminal complaint, the PII data recovered from the iPod found in Iginla’s apartment was forwarded to the IRS. Analysis revealed that the stolen PII data recovered from the Apple iPod was used to file approximately 4,500 fraudulent tax returns with the IRS. The attempted refund amount from these returns is approximately $13,025,000, and over $2,400,000 in refunds has been distributed by the IRS. Investigation revealed that in some cases, tax refunds were transferred to Green Dot and other prepaid debit card accounts and the funds were then withdrawn from the accounts. For example, a prepaid debit visa account found in Iginla’s files show that the account was activated on line in the name of D.S. Within two day of its activation, that account received a direct deposit of a tax refund. When interviewed, D.S. advised investigators that he had not filed federal tax returns for 2012 or 2013, nor had he applied for or possessed a prepaid visa debit card. D.S. confirmed that the PII on the account was the same as his. Prior to his interview with law enforcement, D.S. was not aware of being a victim of identity theft.
During the Iginla investigation, law enforcement became aware of a related investigation, originally initiated by the Baltimore County Police Department, regarding a fraud allegedly perpetrated by Oladokun, Towobola and others, which involved the re-encoding of victims’ debit card account numbers and the purchasing of money orders using PII stolen as a result of the Target Store data breach which occurred during November and December 2013. Investigation revealed that victim debit card account numbers were re-encoded onto other unknown debit/credit cards, which were then used to purchase money orders and make automatic teller machine (ATM) withdrawals at various banks and retailers located in Baltimore County. The money orders were then cashed by the conspirators at local check cashing stores.
Additionally, a review of financial records showed that many of the money orders cashed at the check cashing stores in Maryland were purchased with Green Dot prepaid debit card accounts using stolen PII. Investigation revealed that Oladokun, Towobola and other co-conspirators have cashed approximately 1,105 third party money orders at one check cashing store, totaling approximately $737,373.
The defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and a mandatory two years in prison, consecutive to any other sentence, for aggravated identity theft. The defendants all had an initial appearance today in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Iginla and Towobola consented to detention and Olakodun was detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for Thursday, July 23, 2015 at 3:00 p.m.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised HSI-Baltimore, IRS-CI, and the Baltimore County Police Department for their work in the investigation and thanked the Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County Police Departments, Maryland State Police and the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service for their assistance. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Paul E. Budlow and Sandra Wilkinson, who are prosecuting the case.