By Biodun Busari
United States district judge, Theodore D. Chuang, on Wednesday, has sentenced a Nigerian man, Oluwaseyi Akinyemi, popularly known as “Paddy Linkin” to eight years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release, two counts of mail fraud relating to a social media advanced fee fraud scheme that targeted elderly victims.
Judge Chuang also ordered 35-year-old Akinyemi, a resident of Hyattsville, Maryland to pay $486,119.07 in restitution to his victims.
The ruling was published by the Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, District of Maryland on Wednesday.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Special Agent in Charge Selwyn Smith of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Acting Special Agent in Charge Troy Springer, of the Washington Regional Office, U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General; and Chief Malik Aziz of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
“Akinyemi committed elder fraud and CARES Act COVID-19 fraud, which are both priorities for this Office,” Barron said. “Akinyemi not only took advantage of a nursing care patient, a national health crisis, and an employment crisis, but he also caused financial harm to at least 13 elderly victims.”
According to his guilty plea, from July 10, 2018 to April 29, 2019, Akinyemi and at least one co-conspirator engaged in a social media based elder fraud scheme.
Members of the conspiracy targeted elderly victims on social media platforms, representing themselves as agents of both real and fabricated government organisations and offered victims non-existent financial rewards if the victims first sent cash, money orders, or gift cards to cover associated “taxes and fees.”
His accomplices even impersonated social media accounts of the victim’s friends to vouch for their fraudulent financial scheme. Thinking that they would get a financial reward, the victims sent cash, money orders, gift cards, and other valuable items through the mail to Akinyemi as well as other members of the conspiracy in order to obtain a financial reward.
Akinyemi, who lived in Landover, Maryland at the time, received packages under the aliases of Paddy Linkin,” “Flex,” “Joseph Kadin,” “Anna Marcos,” and other aliases. After receiving the fraudulently obtained funds, the Nigerian kept a portion of the funds and provided the rest of the fraudulently obtained cash to co-conspirators in Nigeria.
Akinyemi admitted that this advance fee fraud scheme defrauded 13 victims from around the United States, ranging in age from 47 to 78 years old, of a total of $478,145.07.
During an interview with law enforcement on April 25, 2019, Akinyemi confirmed that he had received packages from victims throughout the country, detailed the scheme to defraud, and informed investigators that people in Nigeria were responsible for soliciting the victims to send money to him. Further, Akinyemi stated that he received approximately $80,000 in the mail in the year prior to his interview.
At least five victims suffered a substantial financial hardship as a result of the money that was fraudulently obtained by Akinyemi and his co-conspirators during the execution of the scheme.
A total of nine unemployment insurance claims were filed using the address of Akinyemi’s D.C. nursing care client. As stated in his plea agreement, 10 CARES Act Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (“PUA”) claims were filed with the state of Maryland using Akinyemi’s Landover residence as the mailing address, with an intended loss of more than $170,000.
In total, Akinyemi and his co-conspirators used the identities of 19 real individuals to file fraudulent CARES Act unemployment insurance and PUA claims, causing an actual loss of more than $7,000, and an intended loss of $250,000 in state and federal benefits.