Chidozie Collins Obasi, a 29-year-old Nigerian, has been declared wanted and indicted in the United States after defrauding US hospitals of $31 million by offering non-existent COVID-19 ventilators for sale.
According to a statement on the website of the US Justice Department on Friday, Obasi perpetrated this fraud from Nigeria with the help of co-conspirators abroad from September 2018 to June 2020.
Obasi and his accomplices allegedly obtained more than $31,000,000 through a complicated fraud scheme, the majority coming from the State of New York.
“The scheme alleged in the Indictment began in September 2018, with a spam email campaign that offered phony “work from home” jobs. When a person responded to the phony job offer, Obasi or a co-conspirator posed as a representative of a legitimate company, often a supposed medical equipment supplier based outside the United States, and offered the person a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities including collecting on outstanding invoices,” the statement read.
“An accomplice in Canada then sent the new ’employee’ counterfeit checks purportedly from customers of the company, and the new ’employee’ deposited the checks, took a commission, and wired the rest of the money to a foreign bank account ostensibly owned by the fake company. Obasi and his co-conspirators obtained more than $1 million in this manner.”
In 2020, Obasi went further to pose as a ventilator salesman for an Indonesian medical supply company.
“In approximately March 2020, soon after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States and ventilators were in high demand, Obasi posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale, and claimed to have a large stockpile of ventilators manufactured by a German company,” the statement added.
“Obasi allegedly convinced a medical equipment broker in the U.S. to broker sales of these non-existent ventilators, and ultimately deceived the State of New York into wiring more than $30 million for the purchase of ventilators that did not exist.
“He continued to target other potential customers with this same scam, including hospitals.
“Later, in approximately June 2020, Obasi and his accomplices took advantage of the EID Loan programme by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds.”
According to the indictment sheet, Obasi is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud and 16 counts of wire fraud. He is presently a fugitive, and the United States is seeking to locate and arrest him.
Obasi faces a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison, a five-year period of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine. He would also be required to make full restitution of the more than $31,000,000 that he obtained by fraud.
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