Three Nigerians have been caught by the security cameras of Automated Teller Machines in the United States of America for engaging in more than $1.4 million (about N580 million) jobless benefits of the states of Arizona, California, North Carolina, and Maryland.
US prosecutors accused the trio – Quazeem Owolabi Adeyinka, 20; Ayodeji Jonathan Sangode, 22; and Olamide Yusuf Bakare for filing unemployment remunerations more than 200 times from the four states.
Nigeria Abroad reports that the three were caught in connection with pandemic unemployment benefits fraud as they used two addresses in Hyattsville, Maryland.
Agents have established that Adeyinka and Sangode are currently the residents of one of the addresses, which has been another place of illegal activity including unemployment fraud for much of 2020 and 2021. Bakare, in a separate case in 2019, had pleaded guilty to identity fraud.
The 26-page prosecution file seen by Nigeria Abroad says the Nigerians also applied for fraudulent unemployment entitlements in the states of Hawaii, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.
However, unlike the other four states, these states do not necessarily use Bank of America (BofA) to disperse their Unemployment Insurance (UI) funds and thus their benefit payouts would not be reflected in the BofA records submitted to the investigation.
BofA records show that 175 prepaid cards worth more than $1.4 million total—$158,000 of which came from Maryland—were sent to the suspects’ addresses.
The funds were depleted through purchases, transfers, and ATM cash withdrawals conducted in California, Florida, and Maryland, according to prosecutors. ATM withdrawals alone amounted to over $989,000.
According to BofA’s footage, Sangode’s Hyundai (MD license plate 3DS7400) was surveilled at a BofA drive-through ATM located at 3413 Kenilworth Ave, Hyattsville, Maryland.
The driver of the vehicle resembles Sangode based on a comparison using his MD driver’s license photo, the indictment says.
BofA records also revealed that, on or about July 19, 2020, an individual appearing to be Adeyinka based on a comparison with his driver’s license photo, withdrew $1,000 cash using BofA-EDD debit card ending in 2312 in the name of K.K. at the Landover Hills Bank of America ATM located at 7515 Annapolis Road, Hyattsville, Maryland.
More BofA records show that, on or around July 5, 2020, an individual appearing to be Bakare based on his driver’s license photo withdrew cash using the 7990 BofA-EDD debit card at a BofA ATM located at 10200 Lake Arbor Way, Mitchellville, Maryland.
There were sequences of other such withdrawals at different dates involving different volumes, in which all three individuals were identified.
Angie Barnett, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland, said some sources estimate this type of fraud has gone up 3,000% since the coronavirus pandemic, and catching and prosecuting these criminals is tough.
“The bad people are capitalizing on the grief and the fragility of our society. We’re emotional, we’re fragile and our financial care and concern, and scammers take advantage of that,” Barnett said.