By Biodun Busari
A 29-year-old Nigerian man, Chidozie Collins Obasi, has been declared wanted in the United States for alleged fraud.
The Nigerian is accused of allegedly defrauding US hospitals of $31 million by offering non-existent COVID-19 ventilators for sale.
This was disclosed in a statement by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) on Friday.
It added that the suspect perpetrated the scheme from Nigeria with the support of co-conspirators abroad between September 2018 and June 2020.
Obasi and his accomplices allegedly received more than $31,000,000 through a complicated fraud scheme, the majority coming from the State of New York.
“The scheme alleged in the Indictment began in September 2018, with a spam email campaign that offered phony “work from home” jobs.
“When a person responded to the phony job offer, Obasi or a co-conspirator posed as a representative of a legitimate company, often a supposed medical equipment supplier based outside the United States, and offered the person a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities including collecting on outstanding invoices.
“An accomplice in Canada then sent the new ’employee’ counterfeit checks purportedly from customers of the company, and the new ’employee’ deposited the checks, took a commission, and wired the rest of the money to a foreign bank account ostensibly owned by the fake company. Obasi and his co-conspirators obtained more than $1 million in this manner.
“In 2020, Obasi went further to pose as a ventilator salesman for an Indonesian medical supply company.
“In approximately March 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and ventilators were in high demand, Obasi posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale, and claimed to have a large stockpile of ventilators manufactured by a German company.
“Obasi allegedly convinced a medical equipment broker in the U.S. to broker sales of these non-existent ventilators, and ultimately deceived the State of New York into wiring more than $30 million for the purchase of ventilators that did not exist.
“He continued to target other potential customers with this same scam, including hospitals.
“Later, in approximately June 2020, Obasi and his accomplices took advantage of the EID Loan programme by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds”, the statement read.
According to the indictment sheet, Obasi who is presently a fugitive, is being charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud and 16 counts of wire fraud.”
He faces a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison, a five-year period of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine and would also be required to make full restitution of the more than $31,000,000 that he allegedly obtained by fraud if found guilty.