Texas: FBI cracks down on bank fraud gang

Central Scrutinizer

Staff member
By Guillermo Contreras - Express-News

The FBI is investigating a fraud ring accused of bilking several banks and customers including San Antonio-based USAA and the former chief of staff of U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond's out of at least $44 million.

One person is in custody in San Antonio and agents are looking for a Nigerian man from Dallas featured on the television show Mmerica's Most Wanted.

The suspects are believed to have posed as customers to fraudulently withdraw money from bank accounts, including one at USAA that was tapped for $98,000.

This case is linked to a larger $44 million case in Virginia, said Erik Vasys, spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio. "It's pretty significant."

Earlier this week, Adedeji Omarici Oyekan of Houston appeared in federal court in San Antonio, charged with financial institution fraud and conspiracy to commit financial institution fraud. The charges are related to the $98,000 stolen from the USAA account. He was ordered held without bond.

Authorities still are looking for Tobechi "Tobe" Onwuhara, the alleged mastermind. He's under investigation in Seattle, where he once lived, and is alleged to lead a ring of people from Nigeria that accessed online databases to steal people's personal information for use in defrauding banks, records show.

USAA is working aggressively with authorities on the investigation, USAA spokesman Paul Berry said.

"The security of our members' personal information is extremely important to us. USAA uses multiple methods to protect our members from fraudulent transactions. In addition, USAA communicates regularly with members to help educate and protect them from fraudulent activities," he said.

The ring targets victims who have a large balance in a home equity line of credit, and use the stolen personal information to initiate transfer money to a "mule" bank accounts.

Mule accounts are opened by people who agree to let the ring use the accounts for a cut of the stolen money.

In USAA's case, Oyekan, Onwuhara and other ring members allegedly used the information to call USAA and pretend to be a customer. The ring provided enough biographical information about one targeted victim to convince USAA to wire transfer $98,000 from that customer's account to mule accounts at Citibank in New York and Woodforest Bank in Houston, court records show.

"They targeted a number of identified HELOC, home equity line of credit, accounts and were successful on one," Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom McHugh said, referring to accounts at USAA. "I think we identified at least four accounts they were in one phase or another of trying to access."

Onwuhara has a past that involves credit card fraud, and authorities say he researched and tested his skills until he was successful.

Court records said he splits his time between Miami and Dallas, but could be in Atlanta, New Jersey or Canada.

With the stolen proceeds, authorities allege, he lived in a $600,000 home in Miami and rented a condo in Dallas for $4,000 a month, according to a segment featuring him on "America's Most Wanted. "

According to Washington Examiner Web site, one of his victims was Robert Short, former chief of staff for Sen. Thurmond. America's Most Wanted reported that Onwuhara flashed up to $50,000 at strip clubs, drove a Bentley, a Maserati and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. He even owned his own recording studio and started his own rap label, called SWAT Up Entertainment.

His fiancee, Precious Matthews, a Baylor alum, is among nine people charged in Virginia with Onwuhara. Matthews, of Miami, primarily is responsible for calling financial institutions and convincing them to wire transfer money out of victims' accounts and laundering the proceeds, the affidavit said.

Tobechi "Tobe" Onwuhara, Still wanted

“America's Most Wanted” reported that Onwuhara flashed up to $50,000 at strip clubs, drove a Bentley, a Maserati and a Rolls-Royce Phantom. He even owned his own recording studio and started his own rap label, called SWAT Up Entertainment.
Is it my imagination or are these guys making money doing legitimate things? And they can resist a little 419? what is with these guys? I guess it's true: You can take the scammer out of Nigeria but you can't take the scamming out of the yahoo boi.

mac was frauded

That is all BS folks how we are really protected by our banks. After receiving a message from my bank in S.A. that my password had been changed, I called twice and told them I DID NOT change my password - it was someone other than me! What did my bank do? Nothing, how bad is that! Then, all my money was transferred electronically and by phone to Turkey, a radical Islamic extremist stronghold, over a period of days and numerous transactions while my bank stood idly by. I really hope the FBI is working diligently to cut off funding to war zones by any bank in the U.S. They should start first with our banks who authorize any transfers to an active war zone, without "bullet proof verification" from both the sender and the receiver. This was no ordinary scam in my opinion. It was a "behind the firewall" fraud by a very clever, aggressive internet thieve.