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$3.2m Scam: Nigerian Fraudster Teetering On The Brink Of Extradition

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SAN FRANCISCO, April 25, (THEWILL) - Justice James Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Lagos will on May 30, 2012 hear the extradition request filed by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) against 26-year old Olaniyi Jones Makinde, who is wanted in the U.S. for alleged wire fraud.

When the case came up on Monday, April 23, counsel to the accused, Akin Olatunji urged the court to grant bail to the accused. He said the accused had been in the detention since January when he was arrested. Olatunji further pleaded with the court to be lenient, claiming that the case commenced in 2010, when the accused was first arrested but later granted bail.

However, prosecuting counsel, Muslim S. Hassan said that the extradition proceeding is altogether different from the criminal case for which the accused was first arraigned, and that the moment the extradition process commenced, the criminal case was dropped. He told the court that if there was going to be any issue of bail, the defence counsel should do it properly by presenting a bail application before the court.

However, Justice Tsoho ordered that the accused be remanded in Ikoyi Prison, and adjourned the case to May 30.

Olaniyi Jones is wanted in the United States for criminal offences committed by his syndicate, which includes six other persons: Karlis Karklins, Charles Chidi, Waya Nwaki, Osarhieme Obaygbona, Marvin Dion Hill and Alphonsus Osuala.

Between August 2009 and June 2010, Olaniyi and his six co-defendants worked in concert across three continents as part of a conspiracy to steal approximately $3.2 million from payroll companies and banks.

To do so, they used internet "phishing attacks” and bogus websites to trick unwitting consumers into giving up their online usernames and passwords. After obtaining this personal identification information, Karlins, Chidi and other members of the syndicate added fake employees to the payroll accounts of victim companies at payroll processing companies. They used these victims’ online accounts to ‘pay’ the fake employees through electronic transfers. The syndicate then shared the proceeds by transferring them to accounts that they controlled overseas via bank wire, Western Union and Moneygram.

The Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) revealed that Olaniyi had two specific roles in the conspiracy. First, he opened bank accounts in Nigeria, into which the fraudulent proceeds of the scheme were wired. He also used a fraud commonly known as 'romance scam,’ where he assumed the false identity a young European woman online to trick men into believing that they were having a romantic relationship with a certain Brenda Stuart. Olaniyi used e-mail accounts in Brenda Stuart's name to trick these ‘money mules’ or maga or mahe into sending overseas the proceeds of the fraud that his conspirators deposited into the bank account of the money mules.

Two America companies, ADP and Intuit, offered corporate customers the ability to manage their payroll accounts over the internet. In January 2010, the defendants, Olaniyi and his group, gained unauthorised access to two computers in Florida, uploaded fake web pages and ADP's trademark logo that appeared legitimate.

Among the magas was one John Massoni, a resident of New York. It was revealed that Olaniyi a.k.a. Brenda Stuart sent provocative photographs of a white woman and the victims were lured into sending their accounts details to him, thinking it was Brenda Stuart. Afterwards, he wired the account details of the magas to conspirators, who latter sent the money back to him via Western Union, Moneygram.

As part of the scheme in Brenda's e-mail sent to one of the victims, Jones often characterised the payments as necessary to help an ailing family member or to assist Brenda Stuart’s legitimate business activity.

Argument on the extradition request commences on May 30, 2012.