Augustine Osemwegie, a Nigerian native living in Milton, set up an elaborate system involving used cars and multiple bank accounts to launder money for a network of Nigerians along the East Coast who, federal officials say, defrauded seniors looking for company on Facebook and using other people's personal information to suck money out of state pandemic unemployment accounts and federal payments meant for hard-hit businesses, the US Attorney's office charges.
Osemwegie, 53, was formally charged yesterday in US District Court with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud. He faces a bail hearing on Aug. 31.
According to an affidavit by an FBI agent on the case, Osemwegie and a co-conspirator - who pleaded guilty last summer and agreed to turn state's evidence - would take payments from scam runners for a fee and would ensure their money could be safely transferred to Nigeria and converted into naira, that country's currency.
Osemwegie, who did not participate directly in any of the scams himself, would do this in part by using the money from the people committing the frauds to buy used cars in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the US, and ship those to Nigeria, where they would be sold in local currency, with the proceeds, minus Osemwegie's fee, deposited in the scammers' Nigerian accounts. He set up a used-car company to facilitate the purchases and sales, the FBI says.
According to export data from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol ("CBP"), between on or about November 8, 2018 and August 13, 2021, Ejad Auto Sales exported 1832 vehicles from the United States to Nigeria, and 2 vehicles to Cotonou, Benin. The total value declared to CBP for these vehicles was approximately $1,117,320, which is an approximate average of $6,105 per vehicle. Between October 5, 2018 and June 8, 2020, OSEMWEGIE, in his own name, exported 33 vehicles from the United States to Nigeria. The total value declared to CBP for these vehicles was approximately $163,055, which is an approximate average of $4,941 per vehicle.
Among those who allegedly funneled him money was Macpherson Osemwegie of Hyde Park - no relation - who was indicted in March on charges he and his pals would patiently string along lonely women between their 50s and 80s on Facebook - sometimes for several years, pretending to be US Army officers overseas, before finally asking the women for money. Macpherson Osemwegie has agreed to plead guilty and is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Boston on Wednesday.
The affidavit says that after the co-conspirator agreed to cooperate with the feds, he called Osemwegie to introduce him to a third man, also working for the feds, who pretended he wanted to move money to Nigeria. Oswemwegie, wary at first because he knew of the co-conspirator's legal issues, said he could do so for a 40% fee. The third man countered with 10%. At a meeting at the Peabody Five Guys, they agreed on 20%, the affidavit says.
The third man then handed Oswemwegie an envelope with $13,000 in cash, which Osemwegie said he would convert to Bitcoin, to help evade suspicious Nigerian officials.
But later that day, the affidavit says, Oswemgie contacted the man and said that instead of using Bitcoin, he had wired the money to an account the third man controlled at a Canadian bank. Oh, and he was increasing his cut to 30%.