Nigeria’s Oluwaseyi Akinyemi, 34, aka “Paddy Linkin” is facing 60 years imprisonment if convicted of $474,000 mail fraud in the United States.
A criminal complaint was filed against Akinyemi in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Friday charging Akinyemi of Hyattsville, Maryland, for the federal charges of mail fraud, attempted mail fraud, and mail and wire fraud conspiracy, in connections with an advanced fee fraud scheme using social media to target elderly victims and causing losses of $474,145.07.
According to the United States Department of Justice, the criminal complaint was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Interim Chief Hector Velez of the Prince George’s County Police Department.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, from July 10, 2018 to April 29, 2019, Akinyemi was a member of the a fraud group (the AFG), a group of Nigerian nationals who engaged in a social media-based advanced fee fraud schemes targeting elderly individuals.
Allegedly, AFG members perpetrated a financial scheme in which they created fictitious social media accounts to encourage elderly victims to send cash to cover “taxes” or “fees” in order to receive substantial financial awards.
The affidavit alleges that, in some instances, the AFG created fraudulent social media accounts of friends of the victims, making the victims believe they were communicating with individuals they knew and trusted.
Once the victims displayed a level of interest, the AFG allegedly opened a new account or persona (“the Closers”) to carry out the fraud scheme. At times, the Closers fraudulently posed as real or fictitious government agencies offering the victims financial awards in exchange for associated taxes and fees.
The affidavit further alleges that once victims sent funds to individuals in Maryland and elsewhere, AFG members forwarded the victims’ funds to co-conspirators in Nigeria. The affidavit alleges that Akinyemi is one of the individuals that received victims’ cash or gift card payments through mail services.
As detailed in the affidavit, on April 16, 2019, the Prince George’s County Police Department intercepted a package sent to “Paddy Linkin” at Akinyemi’s address. The package was found to contain $30,000 in cash wrapped in money bands and concealed inside two stuffed animal bears.
The money was seized by law enforcement. As detailed in the criminal complaint, Victim 1 was identified as the sender and was subsequently interviewed by law enforcement. According to the affidavit, Victim 1 received an application for a purported federal government program from an individual that the victim believed was a “friend” on a social media platform, because the sender’s profile picture matched that of an individual with whom Victim 1 was friends.
The “friend” vouched for the program. Victim 1 was allegedly contacted by a Closer, who advised that Victim 1 was approved for $100,000 in grant funds but needed to pay taxes to receive the grant funds. Once Victim 1 sent funds for the “taxes”, she received a “Certificate of Completion” with the Internal Revenue Service seal and another certificate bearing her full name and the text: “Federal Government Grants for the sum of $5,000,000.”
Victim 1 was then notified that the Central Intelligence Agency was going to confiscate the grant funds if he/she did not send more money to cover the taxes on the awarded grant.
Following the Closer’s specific instructions, Victim 1 allegedly sent a total of approximately $70,000 to $80,000 in cash to “Paddy Linkin” in six packages addressed to Akinyemi’s residence as well as to an address in Midland, Texas, including the $30,000 seized by the Prince George’s County Police officers. According to the affidavit, Victim 1 withdrew funds from a retirement account and obtained a bank loan in order to pay the “taxes” believing that he/she would receive federal grants.
At least 13 victims have allegedly been defrauded of a total of $474,145.07 through the AFG scheme.
If convicted, Akinyemi faces a maximum sentence of 20 years for each count of mail fraud, attempted mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. At today’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan ordered that Akinyemi be detained.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the HSI and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rajeev R. Raghavan and Erin B. Pulice, who is prosecuting this case.