Two Nigerians have been indicted in the United States for defrauding people seeking to rent houses out of $3.3 million through a scheme that involved using multiple false identities and counterfeit drivers’ licenses.
The Nigerians were identified as Norbert Ozemena Ikwuegbundo (28) and Omniyi Jonathan Omotere (35).
Both men are residents of Las Vegas.
The indictment was disclosed in a release by the US Department of Justice on Thursday, September 9, 2021.
Court documents revealed that from about March 2018 until about September 2019; Ikwuegbundo, Omotere, and others engaged in an elaborate fraudulent scheme which saw them assume the identities of homeowners who were advertising on websites to rent their properties. Also, both Nigerians posted imposter rental advertisements online at reduced rent prices;using the names and personal identifiers of true homeowners.
However, they changed the contact information to email addresses and phone numbers controlled by the defendants.
Using wire transmission instructions provided by the defendants through emails and text messages; prospective renters wired money for first and last month’s rent (and security deposits) to commercial businesses that provide wire transfer services to their customers.
In addition, the defendants allegedly used various lulling techniques; such as sending false rental agreements for victims to sign; so that they would have more time to pick up the wired money. Having succeeded in extorting money from their victims, the defendants laundered proceeds from the scheme by using some of the stolen money to buy cars at auction.
Both Nigerians were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In addition, Omotere is charged with one count of wire fraud; while Ikwuegbundo is charged with two counts of wire fraud; one count of possessing equipment used to make counterfeit drivers’ licenses; one count of concealment money laundering, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Ikwuebundo made his initial court appearance on August 11, 2021, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Elayna J. Youchah. On his part, Omotere made his initial appearance today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Nancy J. Koppe.
A jury trial has been scheduled for October 18, 2021 before U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro. If convicted, Ikwuegbundo faces a statutory maximum penalty of 97 years in prison; while Omotere faces a statutory maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.