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Hushpuppi’s ally, Woodberry pleads guilty to fraud, agrees to settle victims with $8Million

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Olalekan Ponle, better known as Woodberry, has pleaded guilty to a fraud charge at a United States district court, according to report.

The district court for Northern Illinois has set 11 July for his sentencing.

Woodberry is well-known to be an ally of another Nigerian international fraudster, Ramon Abbas, alias Hushpuppi, who was jailed last year.

The two men were arrested for extensive international online scams in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, on 10 June 2020, and were flown to the United States to face separate trials.

Hushpuppi, who initially pleaded not guilty, changed his plea to guilty in April 2021, just before a full-blown trial was to begin. The US district court for Central California where prosecutors charged him jailed him for 11 years and ordered him to pay $1.7 million restitution in November 2022.

Hushpuppi gets over 11-year jail term, to pay $1.8 million restitution

Woodberry, accused of defrauding a US company of about $188,000, similarly maintained his innocence for over two years.

He has, however, made a U-turn to plead guilty to one count of wire fraud during a change of plea hearing at the US District Court for Northern Illinois this April, according to court documents.

The judge, Robert Gettleman, accepted the defendant’s change of plea in a ruling delivered on 6 April.

He set 11 July for sentencing after accepting the plea agreement Woodberry entered into with US prosecutors.

The judge referred the case to the Probation Department for a pre-sentence investigation and report, which would guide his decision on the appropriate sentence to impose.

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He gave the US government 60 days before the sentencing date to provide the Probation Office and the courtroom deputy a list of victims and their full current contact information to obtain the court’s order of restitution.

“The list shall include any amounts subject to restitution. If the Government is not able to provide the full victim list 60 days before sentencing, they shall file a motion to request an extension of time to compile the information,” the judge added.

Woodberry and Fraud
In pleading guilty, Woodberry confessed to defrauding a company in New York, identified as “Victim Company B” of almost $188,000 through online scams involving business email comprise schemes.

US prosecutors said starting from January 2019, Ponle and his co-schemers “were engaged in a business email compromise scheme targeting Victim Company B and other companies which resulted in a fraudulent wire of approximately $188,191.50 to a bank account.”

How fraudulent plot was hatched
According to the court filing, the scheme began with one or more of Mr Ponle’s co-schemers gaining unauthorised access to Victim Company B’s email account on or before 16 January 2019.

They hacked into the email account by fraudulently obtaining the account credentials, according to the prosecutors.

“Once access to this email account (“Victim Company B Email Account”) had been accomplished, the co-schemers changed certain security settings in the email account to hide their activity from the actual email account user,” prosecutors said in the plea agreement signed by Woodberry.

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Swiftly, on 16 January 2019, an email was sent from the compromised Victim Company B’s email account to another email account of the company requesting a $188,191.50 payment be made to Victim Company B’s supplier.

The email, according to prosecutors, contained instructions that the money be sent via wire transfer to a bank account which was set up by Whiteberry.

“PONLE knew that he had no right to the money and that the email was intended to defraud Victim Company B into paying money owed to the supplier to an account controlled by PONLE rather than the supplier.

“As a result of the email, approximately $188,191.50 was sent to 8208 account. PONLE acknowledges that the wire was processed through the Federal Reserve System and sent from an account held in New York, New York to an account ending in held in Nashville, Tennessee,” the plea agreement added.

HUSHPUPPI

The document went further to state that on 17 January 2019, Mr Ponle received a message from Individual B informing him that “The money is in”.

It added that Woodberry’s instruction, Individual B converted approximately $119,000 of the proceeds of the fraudulent wire transfer to Bitcoin. “Individual B then sent the Bitcoin to PONLE’s Bitcoin wallet.”

How fraudulent bank account was set up

Woodberry, according to the plea agreement, set up the fraudulent bank account with which he received proceeds of the fraud nine days before he requested payment through Victim Company B’s compromised email account on 16 January 2019.

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The prosecutors say, specifically on 7 January 2019, Mr Ponle, using the alias “Mark Kain,” sent a message from outside the US to “Individual B” asking Individual B to open a bank account in the name of a Victim Company B supplier.

Woodberry was said to have told Individual B to “set up a separate business account just to receive the money.”

Acting at Mr Ponle’s direction, Individual B opened an account under the name “[Individual B] d/b/a [Victim Company B supplier]” and sent the account number, which ended in 8208, and routing number to him, the court filing stated.

On 10 January 2019, he sent a message to Individual B indicating that the wire to the Victim Company B supplier account would be “$188K”.

The prosecutor is pushing for the court to order the defendant to make full restitution in the amount outstanding at the time of sentencing.

The US government last year described w Woodberry’s ally, Hushpuppi as “a prolific international fraudster who conspired to launder tens of millions of dollars through a series of online scams.”

The government said Hushpupi “flaunted his luxurious, crime-funded lifestyle on social media.”

WOODBERRY

His Instagram account, his flagship platform for flaunting his expensive lifestyle, has since been closed at the request of the US government.

 

 

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Court orders final forfeiture of over N12.18bn choice properties linked to Emefiele

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The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Friday ordered the final forfeiture to the Federal Government properties valued at over N11.14bn and another N1.04 billion linked to the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor, Godwin Emefiele.

 

Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke made the order of permanent forfeiture after hearing an application filed and argued by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), through its counsel Chineye Okezie.

 

On June 5, 2024, The judge had upheld the anti-graft agency’s motion filed and argued by its counsel, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo for a temporary forfeiture of the properties.

 

Oyedepo informed the court that Emefiele was suspected of having bought the choice properties by proxy, with the proceeds of fraud.

 

The EFCC named two current and one former CBN staff as Emefiele’s accomplices in the alleged fraud.

The trio, according to the affidavit filed in support of the application, are Obayemi Oluwaseun Teben and Akomolafe Adebayo working with Olubunmi Makinde a former CBN staff and others.

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The properties are mostly located in highbrow parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.

 

Justice Aneke ordered the EFCC to publish the order for interim forfeiture in a national newspaper for any interested party to show cause why the final order of forfeiture should not be made.

 

The judge then adjourned for a hearing of the application for final forfeiture.

Upon resumption on June 21, no party appeared in court to contest the judge’s interim order and Chineye Okezie moved her application for the permanent forfeiture.

 

After reading a 41-paragraph affidavit deposed to by an EFCC Investigating Officer, Michael John Idoko, the 19 Exhibits attached, a Written Address signed by Okezie, and after hearing Okezie’s motion, Justice Aneke granted the application.

 

The properties were listed by the EFCC in two schedules, A and B.

The judge said: “Having carefully considered the application and submission of counsel, it is hereby ordered as follows: – that a final forfeiture order of this honourable court is hereby made forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria, properties contained in Schedule A herein which were traced and reasonably suspected to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities.”

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They include shops and apartments at Cadastral Zone Maitama and Wuse.

 

For Schedule B, Justice Aneke added: “That a final forfeiture order of this Honourable Court is hereby made forfeiting to the Federal Government of Nigeria, properties contained in Schedule B herein which properties were traced to have been acquired with proceeds of unlawful activities.”

 

The properties include lands and apartments which were paid for on behalf of Oluwaseun at a total value of N1.04 billion.

 

According to the affidavit, Obayemi Oluwaseun Teben and Akomolafe Adebayo working with Olubunmi Makinde “used their positions and Influence as CBN staff to secure retail and Special allocation of Foreign Exchange to different companies in exchange for kickbacks.

 

“That Olubunmi Makinde is the link between Obayemi Oluwaseun Teben and Akomolafe Adebayo and the various companies applying for the purchase of foreign exchange.

 

“That Obayemi Oluwaseun Teben and Akomolafe Adebayo as staffs of the Central Bank of Nigeria has access to the bidding processes and bidding Data of companies who has applied for the approval of form Ms to the CBN through their various commercial banks.”

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Nigerian-born boxer shot dead by neighbour in US

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Isaiah Olugbemi, a Nigerian-born boxer, has been confirmed dead after he was shot multiple times in Odenton, Maryland, US.

 

According to local police, Olugbemi was found on the ground with gunshot wounds along Meadowmist Way in the city on June 17.

 

The 27-year-old was rushed to the Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, where he was pronounced later pronounced dead.

 

Court documents later revealed that the police obtained surveillance footage showing a white male confronting Olugbemi with a handgun before shooting him multiple times and fleeing the scene on foot.

 

Nicholas Giroux, the victim’s neighbour, was identified as the suspect in the footage.

 

According to CBS, police said they interviewed Giroux on June 18, and he confessed to the crime and was charged with first and second-degree murder.

 

Abraham Olugbemi, the victim’s brother, alleged that Giroux had threatened the deceased at least two other times with a gun this year — in January and June.

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Olugbemi was a Junior Olympics gold medalist, a three-time Golden Gloves state boxing champion and a two-time Open Regional champion.

 

Giroux’s preliminary hearing is set for July 17.

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Gunmen abduct pregnant woman due for delivery on her way to hospital

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Some yet-to-be-identified armed men have abducted a pregnant woman, simply identified as Mrs Ogunbunmi in Ogun State.

 

Mrs Ogunbunmi, who was said to be due for delivery, reportedly left her home in Oke Lantoro for the State General Hospital, Ijaiye, Abeokuta before her reported abduction on a date not disclosed.

 

According to reports, her husband, Ogunbunmi Lateef, received a WhatsApp message notifying him of his wife’s kidnapping by these abductors.

Confirming the incident, on Thursday in a statement on her X handle formerly called Twitter, the spokesperson for the state police command, Omolola Odutola, said the suspected abduction had been reported to the command.

 

Odutola stated, “One Ogunbunmi Lateef of Oke Lantoro reported that his pregnant wife due for delivery left home for State Hospital Ijaiye Abeokuta.

 

“He received a WhatsApp message confirming the abduction of his wife by unknown armed men”.

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