“Ringleader,” Others Sentenced in $50M ID Theft Fraud

Julian Okeayaninneh was sentenced to 27 years in prison for overseeing the fraud scheme; Olugbenga Adeniran, who authorities called a “high-level manager in the conspiracy,” was sentenced to roughly 22 years.

The so-called “ringleader” of a $50 million bank fraud scheme—which involved the theft of personal and financial information of hundreds of people—was sentenced Monday to 27 years in prison, Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney’s office announced.

Julian Okeayaninneh, a 44-year-old from Colton, California, was convicted of one count of bank fraud conspiracy, 11 counts of bank fraud, six counts of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, four counts of aggravated identity theft, one count of money laundering conspiracy, and one count of trafficking in false authentication features.

Okeayaninneh oversaw the fraud scheme, dubbed “Operation Starburst,” which spanned numerous states—Minnesota, California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, and Texas—and took place between 2006 and March 2011. A large group of co-conspirators bought and sold stolen bank-customer information, which was used to open fraudulent bank and credit card accounts, apply for loans, and obtain cash, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. They also recruited bank employees and others to assist in the scheme.

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp and Wayzata-based TCF Financial Corporation were among the many financial institutions victimized by the fraud.

Also on Monday, Davis sentenced co-conspirator Olugbenga Temidago Adeniran of New York to roughly 22 years in prison on one count of bank fraud conspiracy, four counts of bank fraud, and four counts of aggravated identity theft.

After the arrest of Okeayainneh, authorities found more than 8,000 “stolen identifiers” in his storage locker—including hospital and bank records, credit reports, commercial checks, credit card mailers, and motor vehicle information, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Trial testimony indicated that he used that information to create false documents, and he personally had 27 fraudulent driver’s licenses and more than 140 photos of co-conspirators, ready to be attached to fraudulent identification documents.

The U.S. Attorney’s office described Adeniran as a “high-level manager in the conspiracy.” He “routinely” traveled to Minnesota to obtain cash from banks and buy items from the Mall of America and Southdale mall using fraudulent credit cards, prosecutors said.

Okeayaninneh and Adeniran were convicted in June following a three-week trial. They are among more than two dozen alleged co-conspirators who have been prosecuted, and the latest of several to be sentenced. (For example, two local former bankers each received prison sentences last month.) One co-defendant is scheduled to be sentenced Monday afternoon, three will be sentenced Tuesday, and three remain fugitives.

“As part of this conspiracy, crooked bank insiders bartered the personal financial information of their patrons,” U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones said in a statement. “This violation of trust clearly threatens the confidence the public has traditionally placed in our financial institutions and cannot be tolerated. Today’s sentences send a clear message to those identity thieves and fraudsters who conspire with dishonest bank employees to wreak havoc on the personal finances of innocent customers.”

Key court documents and other information about Operation Starburst can be accessed here.