5 indicted in massive identity-theft scheme – Pittsburgh Post

Young people, PNC Bank among victims

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U.S. Attorney David Hickton today announced the indictments of five people from three states who are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and aggravated identity theft in a scheme with 2,400 victims that cost the IRS $10 million.

The defendants are all of Nigerian descent and some of the money was wired to that African country, according to officials. Charged are Doherty Kushimo, 52, of Providence, R.I.; Saburi Adeyemi, 56, of Memphis, Tenn.; and New York area residents Abiodun Bakre, 49, Adetunji Gbadeshi, 57, and Adebola Mejule, 54.

They are being prosecuted in federal court in Erie because the nine-year scheme was discovered there.

The five are accused of obtaining names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth of thousands of people from sources that have not yet been fully identified, and then setting up bank accounts, filing false tax returns and opening credit card accounts in those people’s names.

“This is on a scale that’s unprecedented here,” said Mr. Hickton. About 100 financial institutions were used by the defendants, he said, including PNC Bank, which helped authorities in their investigation.

Because the scheme was sophisticated and national in scope, it went undetected until 2012, when an employee at Widget Financial in Erie noticed that the same phone number was listed on two otherwise different account applications. That employee contacted the FBI, which then worked with IRS Criminal Investigations to probe the scheme.

The victims were mostly young people from across the country, chosen because they are less likely to file their tax returns early in the process, according to FBI assistant special agent in charge Patrick Fallon Jr.

“What these criminals steal in a second also takes the victims years to recover,” said Mr. Hickton. He said the defendants could face prison terms in the 17- to 20-year range.

Akeia Conner, the special agent in charge of IRS Criminal Investigations for the region, said the bust “should serve as a strong warning to those who are considering similar conduct.”

The defendants are under arrest and are being arraigned in Erie.

Roger A. Cox, the attorney for Mr. Adeyemi, said his client pleaded not guilty and was sent back to Memphis to live at home under electronic monitoring.

“My client had $7 in the bank,” said Mr. Cox. “His car doesn’t run. He can’t get it fixed. He works in a warehouse for $10 an hour and has for years.

“He seems utterly amazed and confused by the whole thing,” Mr. Cox continued. “He just doesn’t understand it.”

He said Mr. Adeyemi “only vaguely knows” one of the other defendants.

Mr. Fallon called the indictment “the tip of the iceberg” in an investigation that could last many years and bring charges against others.

Mr. Fallon and Mr. Hickton recommended that people be “stingy” with their personal information, and check their credit reports twice a year for anomalies.

“We’re kidding ourselves if we think there’s a foolproof method of protecting ourselves,” Mr. Fallon added.

Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542. Twitter: @richelord. First Published April 23, 2014 1:24 PM

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Article source: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/04/23/5-indicted-in-massive-identity-theft-scheme/stories/201404230170

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