1999-07-17 / Front Page

Credit Scam; Heroin, Too

2 Face Life In Slammer
By Joan Ward George

Bola Adeola and Adebiyi Otulaja, both of 146 Beach 59 street in Arverne, and Joseph Omesiete of Far Rockaway were among a group of Nigerian nationals based in New York who were arrested this week and charged with stealing $1.4 million dollars through an elaborate scheme of using the good credit of hundreds of unsuspecting victims.

The whole scheme originated with the sale of rental card agreement forms taken illegally by a former employee at Thrifty Car Rental in Warwick, Rhode Island. Using the personal information contained in these forms, home addresses, credit-card numbers, driver’s license numbers and social security numbers, ring members actually assumed those people’s identities. The ring, who the police have named the "Nigerian Express", had its members transfer funds from the victim’s legitimate accounts to accounts that they were able to set up and were able to obtain thousands of dollars through cash withdrawals. According to authorities, the stolen funds were transferred to banks in the United States as well as Nigeria.

"The defendants were enterprising individuals willing to turn their hands to any kind of criminal activity which would make them wealthy."

-Queens DA Richard Brown

According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, ring associates are also being accused of using laser scanners on birth certificates, social security cards, credit cards and immigration visa applications for duplication and distribution to people seeking U.S. citizenship illegally.

"Our investigation revealed that the defendants had accumulated financial and personal information, including mothers’ maiden names, of approximately 1,300 legitimate citizens from across the country which gave the defendants access to about $10 million dollars in credit. Although banks cover these kinds of financial losses the real loss to the victim is the loss of his or her credit rating and good name. There is also a personally invasive quality to this kind of fraud that causes victims a great deal of distress. It takes months, often years, to undo the damage done to the reputations of the victims of identify fraud and to restore their credit status and, of course, the monetary loss suffered by the banks and financial institutions is passed along to their customers in higher interest rates and fees.

"The energy, time and thought put into this elaborate criminal enterprise could have run a very successful legitimate business. The defendants were enterprising individuals willing to turn their hands to any kind of criminal activity which would make them wealthy. They not only committed fraud but instructed their friends and associates in methods of defrauding others including the federal, state and local governments."

In addition to the three arrested from Rockaway, six other defendants were arraigned at the state Supreme Court in Kew Gardens Monday and served with charges ranging from grand larceny, forgery, criminal possession of forged instruments and criminal sale of a controlled substance.

Adeola, a 33 year old security guard faces life in prison as does Joseph Omesiete, a 49 year old security guard, for their part in allegedly selling controlled substances and for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. It was during an undercover operation following their heroin smuggling activities that police authorities uncovered the illegal and fraudulent financial activities of the "Nigerian Express".

Otulaja, who lives at the same address as Adeola, is a 37 year old resident counselor and faces up to 15 years in prison on counts of grand larceny, and conspiracy to commit grand larceny.

All nine defendants pled not guilty at their arraignment. As The Wave went to press Thursday, Adeola and Omesiete were being held without bail on the heroin dealing charges.

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