LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A Nigerian citizen living in Las Vegas was sentenced Friday to 44 months in prison and three years of supervised release in a fraud case that affected 3,500 victims between May 2018 and September 2019, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada.
A scheme to defraud people seeking to rent houses collected $3.3 million from victims in numerous states, a news release said.
Norbert Ozemena Ikwuegbundo, 31, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, possession of document-making implements and authentication features, and concealment money laundering. U.S. District Judge Gloria M. Navarro sentenced Ikwuegbundo, who also uses the aliases David Okon Larry and Ezekiel Moses Azizi. Navarro ordered him to pay $2,223,124.69 in restitution to victims.
According to court documents and admissions made by Ikwuegbundo, he and co-defendant Omoniyi Johnathan Omotere and others conspired to fraudulently induce victims into sending them money through wire transfers.
The conspirators made counterfeit drivers’ licenses and other ID cards with fictitious names but bearing their own photos. They assumed the identities of homeowners who were advertising on websites to rent their properties and posted imposter rental advertisements online at reduced rent prices, posing as the real homeowners — but changing the contact information to email addresses and phone numbers they controlled.
When contacted by potential renters, they asked them to wire money for first and last month’s rent.
The defendants laundered proceeds from the scheme, buying vehicles with salvaged titles and shipping them to Nigeria, where the vehicles were sold. The profit was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Ikwuegbundo and Omotere.
United States Attorney Jason M. Frierson of the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Miller of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Las Vegas, and Special Agent in Charge Gregory Anderson of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
“Today’s sentence holds Ikwuegbundo accountable for shamelessly defrauding thousands of victims of their hard-earned money,” Special Agent in Charge Christopher Miller said. “HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) Las Vegas will continue to prioritize investigations of those who prey on our community and are gratified with today’s sentencing. We appreciate the collaboration with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners to get fraudsters out of our communities.”
This case was investigated by HSI and the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Frayn prosecuted the case.