Nigerian wanted by US government for alleged $30m COVID-19 fraud
The United States government has declared a Nigerian wanted for extorting its citizens between 2018 and 2020.
According to U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romeo, Chidozie Collins Obasi is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and 16 counts of wire fraud.
Nexus News gathered that the scam targeted Americans through a spam email campaign proposing “work from home” jobs.
However, during COVID-19, it changed to targeting U.S. hospitals and medical systems, offering non-existent ventilators for sale.
Also, the fraud changed again to utilizing stolen identity information of American citizens to apply for and obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EID Loans”).
According to authorities, Obasi committed the fraud from Nigeria, with the assistance from co-conspirators in Canada and other countries.
The defendant and others are contended to have amassed over $31 million; more than $30 million were obtained from the State of New York for the intended purchase of ventilators.
Also, Obasi or a co-conspirator in September 2018 disguised as a representative of a company and offered a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities of collecting outstanding invoices.
In March 2020, when ventilators were in high demand, Obasi disguised as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale.
The defendant allegedly persuaded a medical equipment broker in the U.S. to negotiate non-existent ventilators; more than $30 million were wired from the State of New York to them for the supposed purchase.
In June 2020, Obasi and his co-conspirators took advantage of the EID Loan program by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds.
The Department of Justice declared the Nigerian a fugitive and prompted anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts to contact their local FBI Office.
Obasi faces a maximum sentence of 621 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine.
Also, the defendant will be required to make full restitution of the more than $31 million. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.