A 25-year-old Nigerian living in Texas has been jailed for three years by a federal judge in Houston.
Investigators said Oputa used counterfeit passports to open bank accounts in the Houston area. The passports had his photo but different names and identification.
Prosecutors said he then lured online victims into sending money to those accounts.
The scams ranged from bogus business deals and romance offers to false reports of money won and taxes needing to be paid to acquire the winnings.
Below is a statement issued by US Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Texas, outlining the case against Oputa:
A 25-year-old Nigerian man who resided in Houston has been ordered to federal prison for perpetuating a wire fraud scheme involving various Internet scams, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez. Wiseman Oputa pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud April 20, 2017.
Today, U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Oputa the 36-month sentence. He was further ordered to pay a $1,319,103.72 in restitution to the numerous victims he defrauded. Not a U.S. citizen, Oputa is expected to face deportation proceedings following his release from prison.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, until Jan. 25, 2017, Oputa used counterfeit passports to open bank accounts in the greater Houston area. The passports contained photographs of Oputa but had different names and identification information. He then worked with others to lure victims into sending money into these bank accounts. These funds were obtained through a variety of Internet scams, including business email compromises, romance schemes and unauthorized intrusions into company email accounts. Checks or wire transfers were then sent from the company’s accounts payable to accounts Oputa or others he controlled. Oputa would then use the counterfeit passports to retrieve the fraudulently obtained funds.
Oputa was part of a scheme that defrauded numerous victims nationwide. In one instance in December 2016, Oputa opened an account at Regions Bank with a counterfeit Ghanaian passport as identification. Shortly thereafter, the account received a wire transfer of $40,000 from a victim who had been told to send money for taxes on money he had won in Spain. USAA Bank identified the fraudulent transfer and was able to recall this specific wire. Two additional wires were also recalled; however, the remaining victims’ wire transfers were not. The total amount of money the victims lost nationwide exceeded $1.3 million.
Oputa will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation along with Department of State – Diplomatic Security Service and the Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady is prosecuting the case.