SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A Nigerian national in St. Robert, Mo., has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his role in a conspiracy that used various internet scams to defraud victims.
Segun Prosper Otaru, 26, was charged in a 12-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Springfield, Mo., on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018. Otaru is a Nigerian citizen and a legal permanent resident of the United States.
The federal indictment alleges that Otaru participated in wire fraud conspiracy that lasted from 2015 to Oct. 9, 2018, in Greene and Pulaski Counties. Conspirators defrauded their victims through various scams, according to the indictment, including posting internet advertisements on sites such as Craigslist.com, for goods, services and rental accommodations. Conspirators allegedly sought to induce individuals who responded to the advertisements to pay for the goods and services, which they had no intention to provide.
For instance, the indictment says, conspirators used existing pictures and descriptions of properties from legitimate websites to create fraudulent Craigslist postings under properties for rent. When victims responded to the advertisement, conspirators instructed them to send a deposit in order to hold the property, typically through a money service business such as MoneyGram or Western Union, to an account controlled by the conspirators, including accounts established and maintained by Otaru in Springfield, Mo., and Waynesville, Mo.
Conspirators allegedly defrauded business wholesalers by tricking them into wiring funds into accounts they controlled as purported “shipping fees” for merchandise they purchased using stolen credit card numbers. After using a stolen credit card number to purchase items from the victim businesses, the indictment says, conspirators told the victim the merchandise needed to be shipped to a foreign country. Conspirators insisted on using their own shipper, instructed victims to charge the full amounts for the merchandise plus shipping fees to the stolen credit card numbers, and instructed victims to send the shipping fees to “their shipper” at the provided bank account maintained by the conspirators, including Otaru’s accounts.
According to the indictment, Otaru also participated in a scheme to submit false and fraudulent federal income tax returns in order to receive refunds. Conspirators used stolen identities to file returns that listed false employers, wages, and employment taxes paid. At least 167 false and fraudulent federal income tax returns were designated for deposit to seven different bank accounts controlled by Otaru and another person. These 167 federal tax returns requested refunds totaling approximately $644,280. They actually received at least $24,356 in fraudulently-obtained tax refunds.
In furtherance of the schemes and conspiracy, Otaru and his co-conspirators opened and maintained a series of bank accounts. Some of Otaru’s accounts were in his name and some were in the names of various aliases. In order to open bank accounts using false names, Otaru obtained from his co-conspirators false identification documents, usually counterfeit passports and drivers’ licenses, purportedly issued by nations in Africa, such as Nigeria, Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and South Africa. The false passports contained forged and counterfeit United States visas, as false evidence of the bearer’s evidence of authorized stay and employment in the United States.
In April 2017, the indictment says, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a package sent to Otaru from Nigeria that was manifested as “local body scrub.” In addition to a container of soap, the package contained four counterfeit passports (purportedly issued by Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone) with four corresponding foreign driver’s licenses. All documents displayed Otaru’s picture but bore different names. All documents were fraudulent, and the passports further contained counterfeit United States visas.
In August 2017, the indictment says, U.S. Customs and Border Protection seized a package sent to Otaru from Nigeria that was manifested as “native suite and sandals.” Hidden in the soles of the sandals were four counterfeit passports (purportedly issued by Nigeria, Gambia, South Africa, and Liberia) with four corresponding foreign driver’s licenses. All documents displayed Otaru’s picture, but bore different names. All documents were fraudulent, and the passports further contained counterfeit United States visas.
Otaru allegedly also possessed a fraudulent Kenyan passport and two fraudulent Nigerian passports.
Otaru kept some of the funds obtained from the alleged schemes for his own use. He transferred some of the funds to co-conspirators in the United States and in other countries. He sometime used the funds to purchase vehicles for export to co-conspirators in Africa.
In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charges Otaru with four counts of wire fraud, four counts of bank fraud, one count of theft of public money, and two counts of fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents. The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require Otaru to forfeit to the government any property derived from the proceeds of the alleged conspiracy.
The charges contained in this indictment are simply accusations, and not evidence of guilt. Evidence supporting the charges must be presented to a federal trial jury, whose duty is to determine guilt or innocence.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich. It was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, and IRS-Criminal Investigation.