Indy auto dealer sentenced to 3 years in $5.6M international fraud scheme

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An Indianapolis car dealer was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for his role in an international advance-fee scheme orchestrated from Nigeria that defrauded victims worldwide of more than $5.6 million, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

A federal jury in Houston convicted Tochukwu Nwosisi, 52, on March 4 of conspiracy to commit money laundering and concealment of money laundering.

Investigators from the FBI and Justice Department say Nwosisi, from at least February 2015 to January 2018, participated in an advance-fee scheme involving fraudulent offers of investment funding and inheritances to victims around the world. Nwosisi’s Nigeria-based co‑conspirators induced victims to make large wire payments to bank accounts in the United States on the false belief that payment of the advance fees was necessary before the bank would release their funding or inheritance.

Nwosisi, who owns used car dealership Indy Rides LLC, 4510 W. Washington St., served as a money launderer who accepted victim funds into his bank accounts and directed the proceeds to the ringleaders in Nigeria.

When he was arrested in 2018, investigators said Nwosisi helped defraud investors from more than 20 countries and laundered proceeds from the scheme through his dealership.

Five other individuals from outside of Indiana were indicted in the case in February 2018. Investigators say some of the individuals falsely portrayed themselves as agents of New York-based JPMorgan Chase and North Carolina-based Branch Banking & Trust Corp. to make fraudulent investment deals.

Uju Okigbo, 48, and Chioma Okafor, 28, both of Houston, were each charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to launder monetary instruments, wire fraud and money laundering. Okigbo was also charged with engaging in transactions with proceeds of specified unlawful activity and aggravated identity theft.

Marita Ranalan Underwood, 61, of the Philippines; John Christian Rutledge, 64, of Yaphank, New York; and Osa May Martin, 68, of Carthage, Missouri, were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to wrongfully use government seals. Rutledge was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison and 2 years of supervised release after pleading guilty.

Investigators say perpetrators, primarily in Nigeria, impersonated U.S. bank officials over the phone and online to victims. Some met with the victims at local U.S. embassies or consulates, and fabricated documents to make the victims believe the U.S. government was sponsoring the investment agreements.

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