Vietnamese computer hackers, Nigerian conspirators and the stolen identities of 250,000 American citizens
November 19, 2017
Personal identity information of thousands of taxpayers used in filing false income tax returns
(EUGENE, ORE.) -- On Wednesday of this week, U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken sentenced Lateef Aina Animawun, 37 - a Nigerian citizen and recent resident of the Atlanta, Georgia area - to five years in a federal prison for his role in committing conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and mail and wire fraud.
He was also ordered to pay $2,304,044.92 in restitution. Animawun will be subject to deportation upon completion of his prison sentence.
According to court documents, in May of 2013 a Medford, Oregon victim notified the IRS that false federal and Oregon state tax returns were filed electronically using her and her husband’s names. The returns included personally identifiable information (PII) including their social security numbers and dates of birth.
An IRS investigation was launched and eventually led to search warrants served on residences in Illinois, Maryland and Georgia and numerous email and instant messenger accounts used by Animawu and other co-conspirators to further their fraudulent scheme, according to a statement released by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ).
As part of the wide ranging investigation Federal agents seized prepaid debit cards with fraudulent tax refunds still on them, approximately $79,000 worth of money orders, over $14,000 in cash and electronic devices.
From the DOJ statement about the case:
"The IRS determined that the co-conspirators obtained the stolen PII of more than 250,000 victims. This included stolen identities from the database of an Oregon company purchased from sources in Vietnam by one of the co-conspirators.
Additionally, the co-conspirators gained access to the IRS “Get Transcript” system where they obtained sensitive taxpayer information on their identity theft victims and used it to file fraudulent tax returns.
Agents found thousands of stolen identities in Animawun’s email accounts many of them originating from co-defendant Emmanuel Kazeem. Animawun directly accessed victim IRS taxpayer transcripts, he used prepaid debit cards set up with the stolen identities to file numerous fraudulent tax returns and wired fraudulent tax refunds to Nigeria.
Last August, a federal jury in Medford convicted Emmanuel Kazeem of 19 counts of mail and wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Based on evidence presented at the trial, Emmanuel Kazeem purchased over 91,000 of the stolen taxpayer identities from a Vietnamese hacker.
These stolen identities originated from the Oregon Company database and most of them belonged to victims living in Oregon and Washington states. Kazeem's sentencing is currently set for March 22, 2018. The sentencing for Oluwamuyiwa Olawoye is scheduled for April 19, 2018 for his role in the offenses. Three other co-defendants, Oluwaseunara Osanyinbi, Oluwatobi Dehinbo and Michael Kazeem have been sentenced.
This case resulted from a joint investigation by IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General and the FBI.
Investigative support was provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; the U.S. Postal Inspection Service; the U.S. Department of State; and, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations and Enforcement and Removal Operations."