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Obiwanne Okeke to remain in prison custody till 2020

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Obinwanne Okeke | Photo: Sandton Chronicles

Nigerian entrepreneur Obinwanne Okeke will remain in custody till 2020 without bond as he awaits trial on a two counts of wire and computer fraud of about $11m fraud, a judge ruled Monday.

The presiding judge Douglas Miller at the Newport News, Virginia, federal courthouse, said the case is “complex,” hence Okeke should be remanded in prison until February 18, 2020 when the trial would continue.

United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said Okeke and at least six other persons were involved in the crimes.

“There is a probable cause to believe Okeke has conspired with several individuals to access computers without authorisation and using such access to cause the fraudulent wire transfer of funds,” FBI’s special agent Marshall Ward said in an affidavit he deposed to before Justice Lawrence Leonard, in Norfolk, Virginia, on August 2.

The Monday’s appearance marked the commencement of Okeke’s criminal trial since he was arrested and remanded in custody of the U.S. Marshals Service in August. He pleaded not guilty of the allegations.

In his affidavit, Special Agent Ward said illicit financial transactions were traced to a Gmail account believed to be owned by Okeke. Those transactions, he said, and conspiratorial communications with, at least six other emails, were carried out between 2016 and 2019.

He said the email came up in more than one investigations carried out by FBI agents. He said a confidential source told the FBI that the email account – iconoclast1960@gmail.com – was “had been used to receive stolen login credentials.

The email account was also used to register fraudulent phishing domains.

The FBI agent said the investigations that nailed began in July 2018 after Unatrac Holding Limited, an export sales office for Caterpillar heavy industry and farm equipment, in the United Kingdom was defrauded of $11 million through a phishing scheme.

Before his arrest, Okeke had posed a successful entrepreneur and was featured on a Forbes 30-under-30 list as well a BBC Focus on Africa program.

He had made previous appearances before separate judges for preliminary hearings in his bail applications — all of which were declined.

Okeke, the founder of Invictus Group, has a degree in International Studies and Forensic Criminology and Masters of International Relations and Counter-Terrorism Studies from Monash University in Australia, according to his official profile.


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