Las Vegas man sentenced after $3.3 million rental fraud scheme
LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A Las Vegas man was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release for engaging in a fraudulent scheme that spanned numerous states and defrauded more than 3,500 victims seeking to rent houses out of approximately $3.3 million.
Norbert Ozemena Ikwuegbundo, also known as “David Okon Larry” and “Ezekiel Moses Azizi,” 31, a citizen of Nigeria, pleaded guilty in May to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, possession of document-making implements and authentication features, and concealment money laundering. In addition to imprisonment, United States District Judge Gloria M. Navarro ordered Ikwuegbundo to pay $2,223,124.69 in restitution to victims.
According to court documents and admissions made by Ikwuegbundo, from about May 2018 until about September 2019, Ikwuegbundo, co-defendant Omoniyi Johnathan Omotere, and others conspired to fraudulently induce victims into sending them money through wire transfers. As part of the fraud, the conspirators manufactured counterfeit driver’s licenses and other identification cards with fictitious names bearing their own photographs.
The conspirators assumed the identities of homeowners who were advertising on websites to rent their properties and posted imposter rental advertisements online at reduced rent prices, using the names and personal identifiers of the actual homeowners — but changing the contact information to email addresses and phone numbers controlled by the conspirators. When contacted by potential renters, the conspirators requested that potential renters wire money for first and last month’s rent. Throughout the duration of the conspiracy, the conspirators used various lulling techniques, such as sending false rental agreements for victims to sign, so that they would have more time to pick up the wired money.
After collecting the fraudulently obtained funds, the defendants laundered proceeds from the scheme by purchasing salvaged titled vehicles in the United States and then shipped and sold the vehicles in Nigeria. The profit from the sales was deposited into bank accounts controlled by Ikwuegbundo and Omotere. In total, the defendants fraudulently obtained more than $3.3 million from more than 3,500 victims.
United States Attorney Jason M. Frierson of the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Christopher Miller of Homeland Security Investigations Las Vegas, and Special Agent in Charge Gregory Anderson of the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service Los Angeles Field Office made the announcement.
“Over the course of the conspiracy, the defendant repeatedly deceived and defrauded over 3,500 victims out of a total of $3.3 million,” said United States Attorney Frierson. “This case illustrates our continued efforts with law enforcement partners to pursue individuals who take advantage and steal from others. The restitution ordered will be returned to victims located across the country.”
“Today’s sentence holds Ikwuegbundo accountable for shamelessly defrauding thousands of victims of their hard-earned money,” said Special Agent in Charge Miller. “HSI 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 DSS. Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Frayn prosecuted the case.
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