Consumer Alert: Foreign crime ring steals from U.S. companies
Con artists from Nigeria stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from U.S. companies.
Their crime didn't take a lot of know-how, but in the end a group of Nigerian con artists stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from major U.S. companies. Postal inspectors unraveled this bank fraud case.
Surveillance photos show Olasunka Abaje in a bank depositing stolen checks.
"We have people here who were depositing stolen checks from businesses all over the country," says DeMarkus Calhoun, a U.S. Postal Inspector.
Calhoun works undercover. His bank fraud investigation led him straight to Abaje.
"The main player here is a Nigerian National," says Calhoun. "He's here on an expired student visa."
First, he would steal checks from big companies, wash them, alter the recipient to one of his false company names, then deposit them in the bank.
He or other co-conspirators would withdraw the money quickly before companies noticed a problem.
"The majority of the funds they stole went back to Nigeria to fund the overall larger organization. He was the money-man," says Calhoun.
A search warrant of Abaje's home uncovered more evidence, including as many as 15 fraudulent credit cards.
"During the search warrant, we found computers, ledgers, different account names, different identifiers for himself. We found photos of him that he was using to put into different passports," says Calhoun.
In all, businesses targeted by this crime ring lost more than $450,000.
"To come here and set up an enterprise where you're stealing from the government, stealing from banking officials, and stealing from individual customers, the reputation of the Nigerian national undermines what the people who come here to work are trying to do," says Calhoun.
Postal inspectors say there is a way to protect yourself from a crime like this.
"Know your money. Check your accounts regularly. Go through your statement," says Calhoun.
Abaje confessed to his crimes and faces 25 to 30 years in prison for bank fraud.