A Nigerian has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Seattle, Washington, United States for alleged conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
Chukwuemeka Onyegbula, identified as an information technology engineer with Pan Ocean Oil Corporation Nigeria Limited, allegedly committed the crime using the alias, ‘Phillip Carter’.
He was arrested on June 3 in Nigeria.
Acting US attorney for the western district of Washington Tessa Gorman announced the indictment in a statement by the Department of Justice.
Mr Onyegbula reportedly had in hand in at least 253 fraudulent unemployment insurance filings in Washington, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas, and Wisconsin.
According to the indictment, Onyegbula and his co-conspirators accessed the COVID-19 economic injury disaster loan page on the small business administration’s website and submitted applications for loans using the “stolen” personal identifiable information (PII) of US residents.
While about $290,000 was said to have been paid out in unemployment claims, an additional $54,000 was allegedly paid out in fraudulent COVID-19 loans.
“Onyegbula allegedly used variations of a single e-mail address in a manner intended to evade automatic detection by fraud systems. By using this practice, Onyegbula made it appear that each claim was connected to a different email account,” the statement issued on Thursday by the US justice department reads.
“The email account used for fraud was linked to Onyegbula by various electronic evidence such as phone numbers and IP addresses. The email account contained information such as a visa application receipt, banking information and homework assignments by Onyegbula’s son. The cyber evidence also includes dozens of tax return information for US citizens.”