5 Houston-area residents among 23 people charged in international fraud scheme to steal at least $17M, feds say

Generic hacking computer
Generic hacking computer (Getty Images)

HOUSTON – Five Houston-area residents were among two dozen suspects charged in an international multip-scheme fraud conspiracy to steal at least $17 million, federal officials announced Tuesday.

According to a release, Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei said 23 people were indicted in the fraud scheme, charging them with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

“The criminal conduct alleged in this case is sophisticated in its means, expansive in its scope, and callous in its aims,” Ganjei is quoted as saying in the news release. “The indictment alleges a scheme where all manner of fraud — including romance and investment scams — was unleashed on an unsuspecting American public, including the elderly and most vulnerable, with the ill-gotten gains syphoned off and funneled overseas. The amount of loss, both financial and emotional, alleged in this case is nothing short of staggering.”

According to the indictment, around the beginning of January 2017, the suspects used a multitude of fraudulent schemes to obtain money from their victims, including online romance scams, business email compromise and investor fraud, and unemployment insurance fraud.

The charges allege that the suspects not only coordinated how to extract money from their victims, but how to disguise, disburse, and launder that money once they successfully defrauded their victims, according to the release.

The suspects are accused of obtaining at least $17 million from at least 100 victims, companies, and government entities from across the world, according to charging documents.

The suspects are accused of targeting elderly people and used various schemes such as online dating sites to lure their victims, according to charging documents. Once the suspects fraudulently obtained funds from their victims, they laundered the money through a network of various bank accounts and sent money to bank accounts, co-conspirators and businesses located in Africa and Asia, according to the indictments.

The following suspects have been arrested include:

  • Kingsley Ita, aka “Baron” “Sifk,” 42, of Dallas;
  • Irabor Fatarr Musa, aka “Fatai” “Head JJ,” 51, of Richardson;
  • Solomon Esekheigbe, 48, of Katy;
  • Sandra Iribhogbe Popnen, aka “General,” 46, of Allen;
  • Edgal Iribhogbe, aka “Oseme,” 50, of Allen;
  • Damilola Kumapayi, aka “Luke Morris,” 33, of Dallas;
  • Ehiedu Onyeagwu, aka “Young,” 58, of Rosedale, Maryland;
  • Mathew Okpu, 57, of Temple Hille, Maryland;
  • Benedicta Atakare, 46, of Temple Hills, Maryland;
  • Segun Adeoye, 47, of Pearland;
  • Chidindu Okeke, aka “Steve,” 28, of Richmond;
  • Ngozi Okeke, 47, of Katy;
  • Nosoregbe Asemota, aka “Patrick Asemota,” 46, of Melissa;
  • Chigozi Ekwenugo, 53, of Grand Prairie;
  • Bukola Obaseki, 48, of Allen;
  • Stella Hadome, 43, of Allen;
  • Jequita Batchelor, 37, of Farmers Branch;
  • Osaretin Eghaghe, aka “Biggie,” 37, of Plano;
  • Ejiro Ohwovoriole, 29, of McKinney;
  • Isaac Asare, aka “Asarko,” 48, of Houston;
  • Gold Ude, 44, of Wylie;
  • Henrietha Oziegbe, 23, of Lexington, Kentucky; and
  • Kingsly Oziegbe, 25, of Edinburg.

If convicted, the suspects could face up to 20 years in federal prison.

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