10 Locals Charged in Massive Bank Fraud Conspiracy
Twelve people-including 10 Minnesotans-were charged Wednesday in connection with a $10 million-plus bank fraud conspiracy involving a network of bank employees.
The financial institutions that fell victim to the scheme include Wayzata-based TCF Bank, Minneapolis-based U.S. Bank, and San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank, which has a substantial Minnesota presence-along with Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, American Express, Wachovia Bank, Washington Mutual, Associated Bank, Capital One, and Guaranty Bank.
The indictment, unsealed Wednesday in St. Paul, alleges that the defendants were part of a network that recruited people to use stolen identities to open bank accounts, acquire credit cards, obtain loans, tap equity credit lines, and distribute counterfeit business and personal checks. Through these means, the ring obtained cash and merchandise, according to the indictment.
Seven of the 12 defendants just charged in the scheme were arrested Wednesday in Minnesota as part of what the government is calling “Operation Starburst.”
The Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force led the investigation in the case. It's comprised of local, state, and federal law enforcement investigators who work together to combat cross-jurisdictional crimes. The task force has previously said that the case is likely to be among the largest of its type in the country.
The fraud scheme was allegedly carried out in numerous states-including Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, and Texas-between 2006 and March 2011. Previous arrests were made in California.
The Minnesotans charged Wednesday-along with their ages, their cities of residence, and the specific allegations against them-are:
- Oladipo Sowunmi Coker, 29, of Minneapolis: Allegedly possessed, stored, and trafficked more than 7,000 identification documents, means of identification, bank account numbers, and other information of victims to further the scheme.
- Nana Bempah Osei-Tutu, 35, of Minneapolis: A bank employee who operated as a bank insider for the fraud ring and allegedly opened fraudulent bank accounts in the names of unknowing third parties.
- Fata Leeta Sarnor David, 38, of Minneapolis:A bank employee working as a bank insider for the fraud ring who allegedly cashed fraudulent checks.
- Olugenya Temidayo Adeniran, 35, of Minneapolis: Allegedly obtained cash and purchased merchandise totaling more than $300,000 from the Mall of America and Southdale Mall using fraudulent credit cards.
- Fawsiyo Hassan Farah, 42, of Brooklyn Park: A bank manager in Minnesota who operated as a bank insider for the fraud ring and allegedly aided in opening fraudulent accounts and cashing fraudulent checks.
- Sundayga Dexter Roberts, 47, of Brooklyn Park: A personal banker in Minnesota who allegedly possessed and sold stolen customer account information to others and facilitated acts of fraud among members in the ring.
- Adetokunbo Olubunmi Adejumo, 34, of Maple Grove: Allegedly obtained cash and purchased merchandise totaling more than $300,000 from the Mall of America and Southdale Mall using fraudulent credit cards.
- Jude Obira Okafor, 44, of Fridley: Allegedly allowed his business, A.J. Auto, to be the meeting place for the fraud ring.
- Jonathan Sie Earley, 48, of Brooklyn Center: Allegedly possessed and used stolen identities of others, and facilitated fraud ring participants' meetings with bank insiders, with the intent to commit bank fraud.
- Charles Tumban Dwamina, 46, of Lino Lakes: A bank employee who allegedly opened a bank account in the name of an unknowing third party.
The seven defendants who were arrested Wednesday were led into a federal court hearing in St. Paul in handcuffs. According to the Star Tribune, at least three of the seven worked at Twin Cities-area banks. Osei-Tutu reportedly said that he was a personal banker at U.S. Bank, Farah indicated that she just lost her job as a branch manager at Wells Fargo, and Dwamina claimed to be a personal banker at Associated Bank who was recently suspended from his job.
An arraignment hearing for the seven defendants arrested Wednesday is scheduled for Friday in federal court in St. Paul.
In addition to the 12 people charged Wednesday, several other fraud ring participants were previously charged-including Chidi David Egbujor, 45, of Elk River, and Angela Kay Grigsby, 48, of Minneapolis.
The specific charges that each person faces vary somewhat but all of those arrested were charged with bank fraud-and many also face counts of mail fraud and aggravated identify theft.
The maximum penalties faced by the alleged fraud ring participants vary greatly. Coker and Okeayainneh, who were charged with the most counts-33 and 31, respectively-each face several hundred years in prison.