Thursday, February 9, 2023

U.S. Court jails Nigerian Kelvin Otunyo for money laundering, identity theft

Mr Otunyo was involved in at least six schemes to deposit and launder stolen and unauthorized checks valued at more than $350,000.

• August 15, 2021
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

A Nigerian man named Kelvin Otunyo has been sentenced to 90 months in prison on federal charges of money laundering and identity theft. Mr Otunyo had been linked to about six schemes to deposit and launder stolen funds in the United States. 

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia announced the sentencing on Friday via its website.

“Kelvin Otunyo, 37, of Hyattsville, Md., was sentenced today to 90 months in prison on federal charges stemming from his role in at least six schemes to deposit and launder stolen and unauthorized checks valued at more than $350,000,” the statement said. 

Mr Otunyo had pleaded guilty in April to two counts of bank fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft and two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Mr Otunyo will be placed on four years of supervised release, following his prison term, and his sentence, passed by Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, includes an order to pay restitution of $124,157, and a forfeiture of $303,207.

The court documents outline how six schemes of nine stolen or unauthorized checks from eight victims were carried out. These scams totalled a sum of $355,745.29.

Between August 2017 and 2018, Mr Otunyo and his posse obtained stolen or unauthorized checks from victims, set up shell companies and bank accounts, and deposited or attempted to clear the checks before laundering the resulting proceeds. The scams were carried out using fake identification and names. 

Mr Otunyo was originally indicted on August 16, 2018 for two counts of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft. He was arrested on August 29, 2018, and arraigned the same day. 

He initially agreed to a debriefing session with the government to explore the possibility of cooperating in hopes that he would receive a visa to remain in the United States, in exchange for his cooperation.

He provided the government with his iPhone password, which he later alleged the government used to discover evidence that led to two additional charges.

Mr Otunyo then further alleged that his participation at the debriefing session “was not done in a knowing and intelligent manner and therefore, any evidence obtained from this session should not be used against him.”

Three of Mr Otunyo’s co-conspirators have been charged following the investigation by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation-Office of Inspector General. 

In June 2019, Chief Judge Howell sentenced Michael Orji to 10 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and $905,274 in restitution payments.

Another Nigerian in Mr Otunyo’s gang, Samson Olawale Afolabi, pleaded guilty to the charges leveled against him and is awaiting sentencing on Oct. 1, 2021.

We have recently deactivated our website's comment provider in favour of other channels of distribution and commentary. We encourage you to join the conversation on our stories via our Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages.

More from Peoples Gazette

U.S. Consulate in Lagos

Lagos

Lagos sees over 200% rise in visa approvals as U.S. intensifies consular services after COVID-19 pandemic

In Lagos, 42,329 American visas were approved in the year 2022 alone, a high figure compared to the 11,533 visas granted in 2021.

Peter Nwaoboshi

Anti-Corruption

N805 Million Fraud: Delta senator Nwaoboshi finally lands in prison after hiding for months

On July 1, 2022, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal sentenced Mr Nwaoboshi to prison after it convicted him on a two-count charge of money laundering.

Armed herdsmen

Port Harcourt

Ijaw leaders raise alarm over influx of armed herdsmen into Niger Delta

They called on “the Niger Delta states to properly enforce their anti-open grazing laws and protect lives and property.

Paradigm Initiative (PIN)

NationWide

PIN launches new project to provide digital security for Nigerians 

PIN developed the Ayeta toolkit—named after the Yoruba word for “bulletproof”—to give human rights activists tips on digital security.

APC and PDP flags

Politics

PDP, APC oppose election postponement

The two major political parties in Nigeria have spoken against the touted postponement of the general elections billed for February 25 and March 11.

Trading floor

Economy

Indices up by 0.23% at equities market 

The market capitalisation which opened at N29.575 trillion inched higher by N69 billion or 0.23 per cent to close at N29.644 trillion.