1014375691 OR_Med-Medford crime.jpg
1014375691 OR_Med-Medford crime.jpg

Seventh suspect arrested in Nigerian fraud ring

A massive tax fraud case that already has seen six Nigerian nationals sent to prison, and involved more than 30,000 Oregonians’ stolen IDs isn’t closed yet.

Oluwole Oluwaseun Odunowo and Adebiyi Oduneye each face more than a dozen felony, according to newly unsealed documents filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, alleging they participated in a tax fraud ring using more than 40,000 IDs to file 1,500 false tax returns from 2013 through the middle of 2015.

They have been charged with multiple counts of mail fraud, mail fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft.

Odunowo was arrested Tuesday in Houston, according to a signed search warrant filed Thursday.

Oduneye, who lives in Nigeria, also been named as a suspect, according to a document filed by the U.S. Attorney’s office in September, which had been sealed until Odunowo’s arrest.

Actual losses tied to the two suspects add up to $4.75 million, federal prosecutors allege.

Oduneye, who went by nicknames “Yoya” and “Prince Yoya,” is alleged to have exchanged more than 43,000 stolen identities with Odunowo, according to court documents and earlier news reports.

A Vietnamese hacker reportedly breached an employment services company based in Lincoln City company’s server and sold the names to tax fraud ringleader Emmanuel Kazeem, who was sentenced last summer to 24 years in prison.

Odunowo and Oduneye allegedly participated in the fraud by filing numerous fake tax returns, routing refunds onto prepaid Green Dot Bank cards, cashing out the sham accounts and wiring the money to Nigeria. Victims lived in Beaverton, Portland, Monroe, Corvallis and Canby.

A married couple in Medford were among the first to alert the IRS in 2013 that someone had filed tax returns in their name, according to earlier news reports. The multi-agency case has taken investigators to Maryland, Georgia and Illinois, and led to prison sentences for Kazeem, his brother Michael Oluwasegun Kazeem, Lateef Aina Animawun, Oluwatobi Reuben Dehinbo, Oluwaseunara Temitope Osanyinbi and Oluwamuyiwa Abolad Olawoye. Cutis S. Pethley, of Madison, Wisconsin, pleaded guilty in August to counts of mail fraud, mail fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, admitting he bought Green Dot cards at an Illinois CVS on behalf of a contact from Nigeria he knew through a dating site only as “queen_jenn.” Pethley is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 20.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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