Oluwagbemiga Otufale, 45, of Atlanta, Georgia, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May to seven years in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $498,450. This follows a December 7, 2022 conviction regarding money laundering and multiple fraud schemes after he pleaded guilty.
“Otufale attempted to take advantage of our country during a time of unprecedented crisis for the most vulnerable in our society,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “Our office is committed to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to identify and prosecute individuals involved in COVID-19 relief fraud and those who launder the proceeds of that criminal activity.”
Otufale created multiple aliases. He was also known as “Joseph Perrone,” “Kelvin Benjamin,” and “Abraham Young.” Otufale created sham business entities to open financial accounts in which he deposited the fraudulent proceeds and withdrew cash. In total, Otufale laundered approximately $2.6 million in fraud proceeds through at least six bank accounts.
Otufale laundered money procured from fraudulent unemployment claims submitted to numerous state employment agencies, including those in the states of Washington, Illinois, and Massachusetts. These claims were filed using stolen personally identifiable information of more than 50 individuals. Otufale also laundered proceeds from a business email compromise scheme targeting two Georgia businesses.
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act created a temporary federal program that provided up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits for those unemployed as a result of the pandemic and included a provision to provide temporary benefits to individuals who had exhausted their entitlement to regular benefits or were otherwise not eligible. That temporary federal program was administered by state employment agencies.
“Oluwagbemiga Otufale used fraudulent passports and other identity documents to open numerous bank accounts in the names of various shell companies,” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southeast Region, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. “Otufale used the accounts to launder more than $2.6 million in illicit funds. Most of the laundered funds were the proceeds of fraudulent unemployment claims that were filed in multiple states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. These fraudulent claims were filed using the personal identifiable information of unwitting individuals. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to safeguard the unemployment insurance system from those who seek to exploit the system.”
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sarah E. Klapman and Tracia King prosecuted the case.
“So many individuals needed federal emergency assistance to stay afloat during the pandemic, and Otufale laundered millions of dollars of that assistance money, allowing fraudsters to enjoy their ill-gotten gains and lining his own pockets,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “His greed affects every American taxpayer, and the FBI will continue to hold accountable those who abused tax payer dollars and diverted them from citizens who desperately needed them.”