5 Locals Charged in $10M Bank Fraud Plead Not Guilty

Of 12 defendants named in a federal indictment unsealed last week, all 11 who have made court appearances-including the five locals who appeared Monday-have pleaded not guilty.

Five Minnesotans who were charged in connection with an alleged $10 million bank fraud scheme pleaded not guilty on Monday in federal court in St. Paul.

The five are among 12 people-including 10 Minnesotans-who were charged last week in the case, which involves a network of bank employees.

In addition to the five local defendants who pleaded not guilty on Monday, one Californian who was charged also entered a not-guilty plea. The Minnesotans who just pleaded not guilty before U.S. Magistrate Jeffrey Keyes-along with their ages, their cities of residence, and the specific allegations against them-are:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Charles Tumban Dwamina, 46, of Lino Lakes: A bank employee who allegedly opened a bank account in the name of an unknowing third party.

Of the 12 people named in an indictment unsealed last week, 11 have made court appearances and pleaded not guilty. Just one-Olugenya Temidayo Adeniran, 35, of Minneapolis-has yet to make a court appearance. He stands accused of obtaining cash and purchasing merchandise totaling more than $300,000 from the Mall of America and Southdale Mall using fraudulent credit cards. Adeniran is scheduled to appear at a detention hearing Tuesday afternoon.

The indictment unsealed last week 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 named in the indictment were arrested March 9 in Minnesota as part of what the government is calling “Operation Starburst.” 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.

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.

In addition to the individuals charged last week, two Minnesotans were previously charged in connection with the alleged fraud scheme-Chidi David Egbujor, 45, of Elk River, and Angela Kay Grigsby, 48, of Minneapolis.

The specific charges that each person faces vary somewhat, but most were charged with bank fraud-and many also face counts of mail fraud and aggravated identify theft.