Monday, May 20, 2024

FBI nabs Nigerian official trying to flee U.S. with family after contract procurement fraud

The Nigerian-American allegedly connived with two other officials of Nigerian origin to defraud the Washington D.C. transit authority in COVID-19 supply scheme.

• April 29, 2024
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) on April 2 took into custody Ifediora Oli, a dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, for allegedly conniving with two persons to defraud the District of Columbia public transit system after securing a Covid-19 testing kit contract worth more than half a million dollars.

Documents seen by Peoples Gazette revealed that Mr Oli, 41, hurriedly purchased plane tickets for himself, his partner and his daughter to travel to Nigeria as soon as he learnt he was under criminal investigation by the U.S. government for his dubious handling of a $659,000 contract to supply pandemic testing kits to the District of Columbia’s Department of Forensic Sciences (DFS).

FBI Special Agent Deborah Frye collected evidence for the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on March 28, which led to Mr Oli’s arrest at his Silver Spring, Maryland, residence on April 2.

Mr Oli, an employee for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who was illegally running his own side business, Highbury Global Group, Inc., allegedly plotted with his longtime friend identified as co-conspirator 1 — a staff of Metropolitan Transit Authority “WMATA”— and co-conspirator 2 (romantic partner of co-conspirator 1) to win and share the proceeds of a government contract deemed a violation of the American law, Ms Frye deposed in court.

Co-conspirator 2, also nicknamed BriBri, worked as a contract specialist at the Office of Contracting and Procurement (OCP), a U.S. agency responsible for awarding government contracts to bidding companies.

As a contract specialist at the OCP, co-conspirator 2 was taxed with selecting a company to supply the medical test kits to the DFS in 2021. But she not only allegedly influenced the selection of Mr Oli’s Highbury company for the bid, she also benefited from it, Ms Frye said.

Co-conspirator 2 allegedly used her position as a contract specialist to subtly pressure her colleagues into speeding up the contract award to Mr Oli.

“Co-conspirator 2 again wrote the official about Highbury and asked, ‘Are we not moving forward with the award? The vendor has already confirmed immediate delivery upon receipt of the PO.” Ms Frye stated in her March 28 affidavit.

The FBI agent said Mr Oli, after receiving $630,000 as payment for a job done in 2021, wired $145,000 in two tranches to co-conspirator 1 with explicit instructions to give co-conspirator 2 $15,000 cash, presumably as a show of appreciation for winning the contract bid.

“I add 5k for BriBri,” read a June 2021 WhatsApp message obtained by the FBI from Mr Oli’s phone. “Cash only for bri bri.”

In another WhatsApp message in October 2021, after the completion of the Covid-19 contract, Mr Oli asked his friend, “Give bri bri 10k.”

The cash gift contravened the provisions of a U.S. law stipulating that “District Employees Not to benefit” from awarded contracts.

“No officer or employee of the District will be admitted to any share or part of this contract or to any benefit that may arise,” the provision explicitly stated.

Mr Oli is being represented by Nigerian-American criminal defence attorney John Iweanoge.

U.S. Attorney Timothy Visser of the fraud, public corruption, and civil rights section is prosecuting the matter to prove that Mr Oli deprived the U.S. government of money and honest services of its employees.

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