One negative trait I have observed that Nigerians have is using their IQ, number-6, know how for the most fraudulent things.
The FBI says Tobechi Onwuhara is a criminal mastermind. They say in less than three years, Onwuhara was able to steal $44 million from banks across the country, going nearly undetected by authorities. But Onwuhara did not live the quiet life. According to sources, Onwuhara lived a lavish lifestyle, spending money on high ends cars, jewelry and his favorite pastime — strippers.
Agents say Onwuhara was essentially groomed for a life of crime. Born in Houston, Onwuhara was sent to live with his wealthy father in Nigeria before he was a teenager. Onwuhara’s father, Prince Doris Onwuhara, was a well-known con man who made a fortune in the notorious 419 scheme. The 419 scammers essentially fish for victims by sending random e-mails to accounts around the world. The e-mail usually tells the tale of a wealthy businessman or member of royalty who needs to desperately get money out of a country. The victims fall for the scam because they are promised a cut of the e-mail sender’s millions in exchange for a bank account number or a cash deposit for administration fees.
Onwuhara returned to the United States around 1999 as a young man. He settled in Texas and started work at the Capital One Financial Corporation. Agents believe this job gave Onwuhara unique insight into the American banking system, and they say within a short time, Onwuhara was putting his skills to use and started stealing credit card numbers.
In April 2002, Onwuhara was arrested in Lewisville, Texas, when police got a tip that he may be using fraudulent identification to steal money from stolen credit card numbers. Police raided his apartment and found fake driver’s licenses, credit card account numbers and material used to make fake identification. Police estimated that Onwuhara and another co-conspirator stole as much as $200,000 in just a few months.
But it would not be Onwuhara’s only arrest that year. In December, Onwuhara walked into a Seattle bank and tried to max out the cash withdrawal limit on a stolen credit card. When Onwuhara fled the bank, he jumped into a car driven by Abel Nnabue. The duo led police on a high-speed chase but was eventually apprehended when they tried to flee on foot.
Onwuhara and Nnabue were sentenced to two years in prison.
The Next Big Scam
The FBI says Tobechi Onwuhara is part of a group of Nigerians who they say are using online internet databases to steal victims’ identities to the tune of $44 million.
Onwuhara and Nnabue only served eight months of their two-year sentence, and they relocated to Texas after their release. In 2005, the real estate market was hitting all-time highs. Agents say Onwuhara decided to target Home Equity Lines of Credit. However, unlike credit cards, HELOCS were much harder to steal.
But police say Onwuhara slowly found a solution, getting lists of homeowners in moderate-to-upscale communities across the country. From there, the FBI says he would research the homeowner’s credit reports, which told Onwuhara whether the homeowner had opened a HELOC account and how much money was in it. During the real estate boom it would not be uncommon for a homeowner to have more than $200,00o to $300,000 in home equity.
However, banks still had many safeguards in place to prevent fraud. Onwuhara was able to get around these safeguards by learning everything about his victims. He could easily get simple passwords, such as city of birth or mother’s maiden name, off the Internet. Agents say what was unique was how Onwuhara was able to manipulate phone services.
Onwuhara and his crew of co-conspirators would only use pre-paid phone and pre-paid wireless Internet cards, preventing authorities from tracking phones back to them. But they would also utilize spoofing services to call the banks. The spoofing service allowed Onwuhara to make the victim’s home phone number appear on the bank representative’s caller ID.
Authorities say Onwuhara made most of the phone calls to the banks, but if the caller needed to be female, his girlfriend Precious Matthews would make the call. Other co-conspirators would be tasked with researching new victims to pull off the scam.
Once they got access into the account, police say that’s when they’d transfer the money to the homeowner’s checking account. This would not set off any alarms at the bank. Within a few hours, Onwuhara would then transfer the money to accounts in Asia, and then the money would go to a Hawala in Africa. Hawalas are money transferring systems that work on trust rather than regulations. Brokers, or hawaladars, would take a cut and then transfer the money into an African bank, eventually returning to a U.S. bank. Most of the money coming back to the United States came through a bank account belonging to Precious Matthews or one of the other co-conspirators.
The Perfect Scam Comes To An End
By the time the scam came to the attention of the FBI, Onwuhara and his crew had already taken nearly $20 million, and because the scammer had a foolproof system, they would take another $20 million before agents learned their identity.
But when the FBI gets involved, no system is foolproof. When agents learned the crew was using prepaid wireless connections, they contacted the providers, and one was able to give the FBI surveillance video of three individuals prepaying with cash.
The FBI got their next break in spring 2008 when they learned the crew was using a spoofing service. Those companies record all phone calls that are used via their service to prevent illegal activity. Now the FBI had 1,500 phone recordings to listen to, hoping to find one nugget of information leading them to the crew’s identity.
While most of the calls were to bank, one call did eventually stick out. Someone in Onwuhara’s crew pretended to be a doctor and called in a prescription to a pharmacy in the name of Tobechi Onwuhara. When the FBI ran his name, they realized Onwuhara had been arrested in 2002 for bank fraud.
The FBI compared his arrest photos to the surveillance video and felt it was a match, but they needed more information on his crew.
To find out about the co-conspirators, the FBI needed to find Onwuhara, and they realized he’d left Miami, stopped in New York for a bit and then flew to Nigeria.
FBI agents assigned to the case decided to stop Onwuhara and his travel companions as they returned from Nigeria. Onwuhara had changed his flight several times, giving the FBI reason to conduct a secondary security screening when they arrived through customs. They wanted Onwuhara to believe he was being questioned as a possible terrorist. Onwuhara fell for the trap and gave up information that would eventually link him to the crime.
In the summer 2008, the FBI felt they had enough evidence to take Onwuhara and his crew down. They knew Onwuhara was staying at a mansion near Miami. Although she was a college student, Precious Matthews was paying the $5,000 month mortgage on the house.
On Aug. 1, 2008, FBI agents and local police tailed Matthews and Onwuhara from the house to a Florida casino. As they approached the casino, authorities made their move and detained the crew – but Onwuhara wasn’t with them. While the other arrests were being made, the agents learned Matthews texted Onwuhara about the take down. It’s believed Onwuhara was in the casino at the time.
Agents say Onwuhara is well-traveled and may have hidden millions away in foreign banks. Because Onwuhara was an out-of-control spender, it is hard to tell where the money went. Officials say Onwuhara would spend $50,000 a night in strip clubs up to three times a week. He also stayed at five-star hotels and casinos whenever he traveled. They know Onwuhara was in the process of building a luxury home in Nigeria and had several expensive cars shipped there — all paid in cash.
Onwuhara’s co-conspirators have already been sentenced in this case:
Henry “Uche” Obilo, 30, Miami: Sentenced to 88 months in prison.
Abel Nnabue, 34, Dallas: Sentenced to 54 months on Jan. 30, 2009.
Onwuhara’s girlfriend, 27-year-old Precious Matthews: Sentenced to 51 months on Feb. 13, 2009.
Brandy Anderson, 31, of Dallas: Sentenced to two years of supervised probation and 40 days of community confinement on Feb. 20, 2009.
Ezenwa Onyedebelu, 21, Dallas: Sentenced to 37 months on Feb. 27, 2009.
Daniel Orjinta, 43, Nigeria: Sentenced to 42 months on March 6, 2009.
Paula Gipson, 34, Dallas, Sentenced to 15 months on Sept. 4, 2009.
news source: http://www.amw.com/fugitives/case.cfm?id=59947
I would want to hope that Mr. Tobe hasn’t made his way into Nigeria, and back to his fathers house yet, considering he had been shipping home luxury cars and loads of cash. Even Osama’s junior brother, Farouk Abdulmattab passed through our International airport without been noticed.