ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – One of seven Nigerians who allegedly drained $4 million of fraudulent home equity lines of credit from a half dozen credit unions was arraigned here last week following his arrest in Georgia.
David Ajudua, charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud, bank fraud and identity theft, remains in custody following a detention hearing Friday. Ajudua was arrested in Georgia and flown to Albuquerque to face justice. His six accomplices are still at large.
Authorities say the gang illicitly gained access to credit union accounts in New Mexico, Virginia, New York, and elsewhere in the U.S., resulting in New Mexico Educators FCU, Sandia Laboratory FCU, New York’s USAlliance FCU, Arizona’s TruWest CU, among others, wiring the funds to overseas banks.
The alleged ringleader Harrison Ekpetin, a Nigerian who appears on the FBI’s “most wanted” list, and others involved are still at large.
The scheme worked like this: the conspirators obtained lists of names, addresses and other information identifying HELOC holders of financial institutions from publicly available sources, then illegally tapped into proprietary databases to obtain birth dates and social security numbers, before contacting the financial institutions by telephone posing as the legitimate HELOC holder. By various means the conspirators obtained control of the accounts and then impersonated the accountholders to request wire transfers of funds overseas.
In one case, Ekpetin telephoned Sandia Laboratory FCU on November 24, 2009, claiming to be a legitimate member not himself and provided sufficient personal information for that member to convince the call center rep of his identity. He then changed the telephone contact number on the member’s HELOC to a phone number he controlled and requested the credit union fax copies of the member’s HELOC documents to the fax number he provided. And the credit union complied with the request.
On January 19, 2010, Ekpetin then contacted the credit union posing as that member and requested a wire transfer of $172,000 from the HELOC account to a bank account in Nagasaki, Japan. To confirm the request, the credit union used the telephone number Ekpetin provided two months earlier. Ekpetin answered the call and confirmed the validity of the request. So the credit union wired the money to Japan.
In another case, the conspirators succeeded in having USAlliance FCU transfer $182,000 from a HELOC to Bank of China. In a seperate case, they convinced TruWest CU to wire $310,000 to Bank of Mitsubishi in Japan. In another case, they convinced New Mexico Educators FCU to wire $210,000 of HELOC funds to a bank in Japan.
Prosecutors identified other conspirators as Nigerian nationals Christopher Ofoeze, Fnu Lnu, Godwin Onourah and Imiete Roberts.