Georgia: Nigerian hacker goes on trial

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
By Sandy Hodson
Posted May 13, 2019

Testimony began Monday in the trial of a woman accused of taking part in a Nigerian-based hacking scheme that stole nearly $250,000 from a man who sold his West Lake home in August 2015.

Gloria Okolie has pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to one count each of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The final prosecution witness is expected to testify this morning.

Okolie opened a business account at a Dallas bank where an Augusta attorney was tricked into sending a check for $246,219. She told the bank branch manager she was opening the account for an export business, selling vehicles to customers in Nigerian. Andine Hawkins testified Monday that she and Okolie joked that she had to be careful because of all the scams coming out of Nigeria.

The next month, the $246,219 was wired into the account, directed by a person impersonating Donald Evans. The emails were from a person identified as Donald E. Evans less than two hours after the closing of Evans’ former home on Inverness Way. The emails contained the correct address of the house that was sold, the attorney’s case number for the closing and the name of the real estate agent who had represented Evans at the closing ceremony. Within days, Okolie withdrew more than half of the money before the fraud was tagged and the account was frozen.

The withdraws were part of the “stepping down” process of the scheme, testified Okolie’s former co-defendant, Paul Aisosa, who pleaded guilty last week to money laundering. Stepping down is what those involved in the fraudulent schemes call money laundering.

Aisosa was involved in a number of the schemes which cheated victims out of more than $550,000, he testified. He received $100,000 of the money sent to Okolie. He deposited it into his bank account, took out his cut, $10,500, then wrote checks that would be sent to the Nigerian hackers, Aisosa testified. Aisosa came to American from Nigeria 23 years ago and became a U.S. citizen in 2006, he testified.

Aisosa said he met Okolie when his friend “Kenny” brought her to his office, which was the day he joined the money laundering scheme involving the Columbia County real estate proceeds. It was Kenny, not otherwise identified Monday, who told Aisosa about the scheme and it was Kenny who returned alone to get the checks from Aisosa, he testified. Aisosa reluctantly testified he was involved in another $93,000 scheme in which he faces criminal charges in Texas.

To all other questions about that scam he invoked the Fifth Amendment, which allows people to avoid testimony that might incriminate themselves.


Staff member
And convicted. 419 means jail time.
By Sandy Hodson
Posted May 15, 2019

A federal jury deliberated over four hours before returning a split verdict in a Nigerian hacking case and the theft of nearly $250,000, proceeds from the sale of a Columbia County home.

Gloria Okolie, 39, was found not guilty of wire fraud but guilty of conspiracy to commit money laundering Wednesday morning in U.S. District Court.

The scheme involving Okolie was just one of thousands reported to the FBI’s special unit created in 2010 to battle internet fraud, FBI Agent Robert Stewart testified Tuesday as the prosecution’s last witness. Of the 21,000 businesses that reported fraud to the unit in 2018, only 18 cases could be investigated. So many cases are dead ends because they originate in foreign countries, like Nigeria, Stewart said.

It was in Nigeria an email originated that was used by a hacker to send an email to a local attorney Aug. 10, 2015 claiming to be the seller of a West Lake home. Less than two hours after the closing ceremony, the imposter convinced the attorney to send the $246,219 to a Dallas bank account that Okolie opened a month earlier.

Okolie admitted Tuesday she opened that bank account and a second one in July 2015, and that she transferred the money to various locations after wire transfers filled the bank accounts with cash. But she did so at the request of a man she had fallen in love with, a man called Kenny who claimed he was in the business of selling vehicles to customers in Nigeria, Okolie testified. She didn’t know it was all a fraud until Stewart showed up last summer to arrest her, Okolie said.

In his closing argument Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hank Syms asked the jury to question how Okolie could plan to marry a man whose last name she didn’t know, and why she would move thousands of dollars for him. The important fact was that Okolie was paid more than $18,000 in one month for doing nothing but moving the money, Syms argued.

But defense attorney Pete Theodocion countered that it would have been ridiculous for Okolie to enter a conspiracy to commit a crime and used her own name, phone number, date of birth, Social Security number and address to open the bank accounts.

“No one would sign up to take the fall,” Theodocion said. The only reasonable explanation was she was duped, he said of Okolie. “That’s what con men do ... we have to find a patsy.”

Okolie’s co-defendant, Paul W. Aisosa, testified that he committed money laundering several times, cheating people out of $550,000. The money was too tempting and the risk so low it was hard to resist, he said.

The person who got Okolie into the scheme, “Kenny”, was a real person, the lead FBI investigator testified. Agents were able to track the name Akena to a man held by immigration for deportation in November, Stewart said.