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Honest Nigerians: the Ultimate Victim of Identity Thieves?

21 June 2010 21 June 2010 Tags: , 2 Comments Print This Post Print This Post

I watched yesterday the Current TV’s Vanguard report titled Soccer’s Lost Boys (see trailer here) about scams affecting several thousands of young African soccer players who ended being abandoned, at various locations outside of their native countries, by illegitimate, mostly Africa-based agents, after the agents manage to collect  steep fees from them just for a chance (read “a dream”) of playing for any pro soccer team outside of Africa, mainly in the Europe. The Current’s story brings attention to sad incidents of corruption and crime perpetrated by Africans on Africans, a phenomenon common to people of all other continents. This type corruption is able to easily create a strong and internationally universal sympathy of the international public opinion for the young victims being taken advantage of.  

Another type of corruption which also strongly influences international public opinion is internal corruption of a State. That is exactly the situation when it comes to Nigeria. Popular voices heard online, such as Sahara Reporters present the entire political and social system of Nigeria as a seriously dysfunctional apparatus infected with various manifestations of Nigerian-on-Nigerian corruption and crimes.  But even in that case, international public opinion can react in a way that creates  sympathy for the common folk forced to live there under the system that disowns them.

An entirely different reaction of the international public opinion occurs, however, when any Africa-originated corruption, or crime, spills outside of Africa and claims non-African victims. In such cases, similar to the cases of the international terrorism, the entire country tends to get, automatically and semi-permanently labeled as corrupt and criminal. In the light of recent criminal cases in New York area involving Nigerian nationals, Nigeria has become primary target of the negative U.S. public opinion. Acts of dozens of criminals seem to put all Nigerians  into a “corrupted enterprise” category. That opinion to various degrees jeopardizes the interest of honest Nigerians conducting legitimate business in New York State and the rest of the USA.

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A consequent question raises and remains open: how to remedy such a public relation fiasco affecting legitimate businesses? Please provide a comment below if you have any constructive idea on how to practically implement effective anti-corruption measures to protect legitimate Nigerian businesses, especially small-businesses, and persons in the USA. Those protective measures, in order to be effective must, of course, be transparently and reliably implemented not only in USA but also in Nigeria in a manner that may be similar to the one outlined below:

The proposed anti-graft legislation should require every person (citizen or foreigner) in Nigeria that wants to spend or invest up to N3m and above to swear to an affidavit in a competent law court, stating sources of the money. Certified true copy of the sworn affidavit and tax clearance certificate should then be filed with an appropriate anti-graft agency for record purposes. Immediately following this, the anti-graft agency will issue a Confirmation Certificate with a unique number. This should be the only condition upon which any person (citizen or foreigner) can spend or invest up to N3m and above in Nigeria. It should also be an offense for any individual or business organization to sell or lease properties, machinery, or materials worth N3m and above without causing the buyer/leaseholder to disclose the anti-corruption agency’s Confirmation Certificate Number, which shall be written out clearly in the payment receipt voucher.

Source: How to Curb Corruption in Nigeria by Kali Gwegwe

A transparent certification of transactions, as suggested in the above quote, however, may create additional bureaucratic obstacle for the international businesses. It might be also an insufficient remedy of negative perceptions outside of the Nigeria. The key factor here, as in the case of recent financial fund certification scandal that affected U.S. sub-prime mortgage market, is the fact that the certification entities themselves are a subject of corruption: capital market forces, by default, tend to protect largest players rather than individual consumers.

Below is a press release from the office of the District Attorney of Richmond County, Daniel M. Donovan, Jr, Staten Island, New York, concerning the latest identity theft perpetrated in New York by Nigerians. More related facts here. After all, a Nigerian proverb that states “A traveler to distant places should make no enemies”  is correct. 

The three main suspects in a Staten Island-based identity theft ring are, from left, Kazeem Badru of Stapleton; Ganiu Rilwan of Clifton; and Okoronkwo Okechukwu of Graniteville.

Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan, Jr. and NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today announced the indictment of 18 individuals as part of a multi-million dollar identity theft scam which victimized 27 banks and 60 individual victims, including 20 members of the military stationed at Fort Hood, some deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Among the defendants, 15 were arrested and arraigned Tuesday or are pending arraignment (on) Wednesday in State Supreme Court as part of a 66-count indictment. As part of the investigation, an additional 15 individuals have been indicted on lesser charges.
District Attorney Donovan stated, “These arrests are the culmination of an investigation which began in March 2008, following reports of fraudulent checks being laundered through Staten Island banks. That investigation, through the use of wiretaps and search warrants uncovered a nationwide confederacy of scam artists who engaged in wide-spread identity theft which yielded proceeds of at least a million dollars a year, and well over $2 million during the course of the investigation. While identity theft is enough of a violation of someone’s privacy, these individuals also targeted members of our military at Fort Hood in Texas, some bound for Iraq and Afghanistan, at the time of last November’s tragic shootings and its immediate aftermath.”

Police Commissioner Kelly stated, “This case started with a woman from Montana calling One Police Plaza to report that someone on Staten Island was stealing money from her checking account. That one call, transferred to the NYPD’s special frauds squad, led to the arrest yesterday of a ring that stole millions from unsuspecting victims from Staten Island to Fort Hood, Texas, making victims of  soldiers serving their country. With insiders stealing valuable data, the ring stole identifies to establish checking accounts, credit and debit cards and lines of home equity credit. The detectives and prosecutors can take great pride in putting these despicable con-artists out of business.”

According to District Attorney Donovan, banks located on Staten Island reported significant losses with the deposit of fraudulent checks from Home Equity Line of Credit accounts. This led to an investigation into the activities of two leaders of the network, Kazeem Badru and Ganiu Rilwan. Subsequent investigation, including the use of 10 eavesdropping and 7 search warrants, uncovered additional criminal operations centered in Staten Island and extending into lower New York and Westchester, the cities of Philadelphia (PA), Atlanta (GA), Greensboro (NC), the Texas town of Brenham and Fort Hood Army post and overseas to the city of Lagos, Nigeria.

The District Attorney explained that the defendants were able to arrange for the members of their criminal enterprise to gain access to active checking, investment and credit card accounts. The group operated under a loose organizational structure, nicknamed “BRO” for the last names of the principals, Kazeem Badru, Ganiu Rilwan and Okechukwu Okoronkwo, who through the use of underlings, recruiters and their “dupes” were able to create a network of individuals to: launder stolen or forged checks, act as a mail drop for stolen or compromised accounts, or utilize stolen or compromised credit card accounts for a fee. The participants in the organization would receive a percentage of the stolen currency, a portion of merchandise acquired with stolen cash/credit, or a portion of the proceeds of the sale of that merchandise.

According to District Attorney Donovan, as part of the organization’s operations, the defendants allegedly compromised or attempted to compromise the accounts of 20 service members based in Fort Hood, some of whom were deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, at the time and in the immediate aftermath of last year’s shootings at the U.S. Army facility. While losses to military personnel was limited through law enforcement’s proactive efforts to approximately $15,000 during the course of the investigation the defendants are alleged to have made 2,515 separate attempts to either obtain information, change addresses, transfer money or obtain credit cards and checkbooks from service members’ accounts.

Of the 19 defendants arraigned yesterday, 17 face a top count of Enterprise Corruption, a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The remaining two defendants are charged with Grand Larceny in the 3rd and 4th degrees respectively, carrying top sentences of up to 7 and 4 years in prison.

The case against these defendants is being prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney David Frey, Deputy Chief of the Investigations Bureau, under the supervision of Executive Assistant District Attorney Timothy J. Koller. The District Attorney commended the work of Detective Robert Fitzgibbons of the NYPD Special Investigation Division, Financial Crimes Task Force, Special Frauds Squad, who was the lead detective in the investigation. The investigation was assisted by the U.S. Postal Inspection Services, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement of the Department of Homeland Security, Philadelphia Police Department Major Case Squad, U.S. Army’s Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Division, Brenham County District Attorney’s Office (Texas) and USAA Bank Investigator Damon Young.


The public is reminded than an indictment is merely an accusation, and that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

List of Indicted Defendants

Kazeem Badru
220 Osgood Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10304
DOB: 3/16/1972
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL 460.20)
Additional Charges: Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL 110/155.30), Att. Falsifying Business Records- 1st Degree (PL110/175.10), Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument- 2nd Degree (PL170.25), Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 2nd Degree (PL155.40), Money Laundering- 2nd Degree (PL470.15)

Ganiu Rilwan
240 Park Hill Avenue
Staten Island, NY10304
DOB: 5/22/1964
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Two Counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument- 2nd Degree (PL170.25), Criminal Possession of Stolen Property- 4th Degree (PL165.45), Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Four Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (155.35), Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Att. Falsifying Business Records- 1st Degree (PL110/175.10), Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 2nd Degree (PL155.40), Money Laundering- 2nd Degree (PL470.15)

Okoronkwo Okechukwu a/k/a Ikeena a/k/a Obinna Okoronkwo a/k/a “OT” a/k/a “O-Town”
30 Parkview Loop
Staten Island, NY10314
DOB: 1/16/1978
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Six Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Nine Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Six Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Three Counts of Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05), Scheme to Defraud- 1st Degree (PL190.65), Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument- 2nd Degree (PL170.25), Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35), Three Counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property- 4th Degree (PL165.45), Two Counts of Identity Theft- 1st Degree (PL190.80), Identity Theft- 2nd Degree (PL190.79)

Chukunenye Okpo a/k/a “Chuck”
59 Dehart Avenue
Staten Island, NY10303
DOB: 7/8/1983
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Five Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Three Counts of Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05), Scheme to Defraud- 1st Degree (PL190.65), Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35), Two Counts of Identity Theft- 1st Degree (PL190.80), Identity Theft- 2nd Degree (PL190.79)

George Brew a/k/a “OLA”
8759 Glenloch Street
Philadelphia, PA19136
DOB: 8/9/1978
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL 460.20)
Additional Charges: Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL  105.05), Grand Larceny-3rd Degree (PL  155.35), Grand Larceny-4th Degree (PL  155.30)

Samuel Montgomery a/k/a “ADE”
2525 Welsh Road
Philadelphia, PA19114
DOB: 3/27/1981
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05), Two Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Criminal Possession of Stolen Property- 4th Degree (PL165.45)

Ishameel Lawandi a/k/a “ISH”
240 Parkhill Avenue
Staten Island, NY10304
DOB: 1/23/1981
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Five Counts of Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument- 2nd Degree (PL170.25), Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35)

Kanayo Unokiwe a/k/a “SAM”
43 Trantor Place
Staten Island, NY10302
DOB: 10/28/1979
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Two Counts of Criminal Possession of Stolen Property- 4th Degree (PL165.45)

Kolawole Adeolike a/k/a “K-Boy”
89 Arlington Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10303
DOB: (NO DATE OF BIRTH)
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Scheme to Defraud- 1st Degree (PL190.65), Two Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35)

Corey Mills
280 Parkhill Avenue
Staten Island, NY10304
DOB: 1/14/1989
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Criminal Possession of a Forged Instrument- 2nd Degree, Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35)

John Doe #1
Top Counts: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Scheme to Defraud- 1st Degree (PL190.65), Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30)

Alexias  S. Cartews a/k/a “LEX”
51 E. Park Street
East Orange, NJ07017
DOB: 6/22/1977
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Two Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05)

Kevin Marshall
1410 Parkchester Road
Bronx, NY10462
DOB: 7/24/1980 (CHECK THE YEAR)
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Two Counts of Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Five Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Two Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL110/155.30), Two Counts of Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05), Scheme to Defraud- 1st Degree (PL190.65), Two Counts of Identity Theft- 1st Degree, Identity Theft- 2nd Degree

John Doe #2
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35), Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35)

Jane Doe #1
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Three Counts of Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL155.30), Criminal Possession of Stolen Property- 4th Degree (PL165.45)

Ayodele Rosiji
100 – 23 198th Street
Hollis, NY11423
DOB: 8/2/1988
Top Count: Enterprise Corruption (PL460.20)
Additional Charges: Three Counts of Att. Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL110/155.35), Conspiracy- 5th Degree (PL105.05)

Ethel Jones
5515 West Market
Greensboro, NC27409
DOB: 7/17/1984
Top Count: Grand Larceny- 4th Degree (PL 155.30)

Kelechi Ekwegh a/k/a “KC”
272 Maple Parkway
Staten Island, NY10303
DOB: 6/8/1979
Top Count: Grand Larceny- 3rd Degree (PL155.35)

Written by Mark Bajkowski.
Mark, born in Poland, is a Jack of all trades, master of none, who lives in New York since 1979. Mark has an unusually wide range of interests and is known to relate well to the people half of his age. Since his early childhood, he felt a curious relation to Africa, which unavoidably brings up the controversial subject of multiple-life experiences.

2 Comments »

  • James said:

    The USA is crazy to be letting Nigerians, Indians, Asians swamp their country. Europe, with pretty easy going immigration rules has found crime increased, scams became endemic, welfare costs soared, and health facilities were overwhelmed. Cities in Canada are experiencing the same. What will happen is that as these people populate specific areas, they will have the power of the vote and hence politicians are at their mercy. You will find these people taking over whole districts. Sure, they claim advanced degrees (mostly fake), work experience (fake) even relatives in the USA. The USA is heading down a road that their grandchildren will never forgive them for. All of the good things that the USA represent are about to be flushed.

  • Mark (author) said:

    ..why don't you add Mexicans (illegal aliens?), Muslims (potential terrorists?) and Russians (largest organized mafia in the world?). Dear James, your logic is few hundred of years late; I wish you could then give this advice to the American Native Indians warning them against those pesky Europeans invading them. I guess forgetting that so much poverty in the world is interrelated to excessive wealth of some is a just a convenient way of over-simplifying the reality.

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