By Ayomide Ogunsakin.
The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced this weekend, that a 29-year-old Nigerian man, Chidozie Collins Obasi has been declared wanted by the United States for defrauding hospitals in the New York Area to the tune of 31 million dollars.
The robbery, which was perpetrated between September 2018 and June 2020, involved the young man and his counterparts offering non-existent COVID-19 ventilators for sale in hospitals mostly in the New York area.
According to the Department of Justice and as announced by U.S Attorney, Jacqueline C. Romero, Obasi “was indicted with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and 16 counts of wire fraud, all stemming from a complicated, evolving fraud scheme that initially targeted Americans through a spam email campaign offering illegitimate “work from home” jobs, and then during the COVID-19 pandemic shifted to targeting U.S. hospitals and medical systems by offering non-existent ventilators for sale beginning in March 2020, and finally shifted again in June 2020 to using stolen identity information of American citizens to apply for and obtain Economic Injury Disaster (EID) Loans.”
The Indictment alleges that Obasi perpetrated this fraud from Nigeria, with the help of co-conspirators in Canada and elsewhere. The defendant and his co-conspirators are alleged to have obtained more than $31,000,000 through this multi-faceted fraud scheme, the bulk – over $30 million – coming from the State of New York for the intended purchase of ventilators.
The statement released by the Department of Justice further explained how Obasi and his gang operated.
“The scheme began in September 2018, with a spam email campaign that offered phony ‘work from home’ jobs. When a person responded to the phony job offer, Obasi or a co-conspirator posed as a representative of a legitimate company, often a supposed medical equipment supplier based outside the United States, and offered the person a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities including collecting on outstanding invoices.”
“An accomplice in Canada then sent the new ’employee’ counterfeit checks purportedly from customers of the company, and the new ’employee’ deposited the checks, took a commission, and wired the rest of the money to a foreign bank account ostensibly owned by the fake company. Obasi and his co-conspirators obtained more than $1 million in this manner.”
“In 2020, Obasi went further to pose as a ventilator salesman for an Indonesian medical supply company. In approximately March 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and ventilators were in high demand, Obasi posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale, and claimed to have a large stockpile of ventilators manufactured by a German company.
He also allegedly convinced a medical equipment broker in the U.S. to broker sales of these non-existent ventilators, and ultimately deceived the State of New York into wiring more than $30 million for the purchase of ventilators that did not exist.
“Later, in approximately June 2020, Obasi and his accomplices took advantage of the EID Loan programme by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds,” the statement read.
According to the indictment sheet, Obasi who is presently a fugitive, is being charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud and sixteen counts of wire fraud.”
If found and pronounced guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of 621 years in prison, a five-year period of supervised release, as well as a $5,750,000 fine and would also be required to make full restitution of the more than $31,000,000 that he allegedly obtained fraudulently.
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