A NIGERIAN, Chidozie Collins Obasi, has been declared wanted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation over $30 million ventilator fraud.
The FBI disclosed this through a post on its official Twitter handle.
Chidozie Collins Obasi of Nigeria is wanted for defrauding N.Y. State out of more than $30 million. Anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts should contact their local FBI office or go to https://t.co/M0Wg0RiRKf—anonymous tips OK. More info via @USAO_EDPA: https://t.co/RRow3U6hWD pic.twitter.com/OnG9p5Os7N
— FBI Philadelphia (@FBIPhiladelphia) September 9, 2022
The agency said Obasi was indicted and wanted for defrauding New York State more than $30 million by posing as a ventilator seller during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Obasi was also accused of targeting Americans through a spam email campaign offering illegitimate “work from home” jobs.
The FBI said 29-year-old Obasi perpetrated the fraud from Nigeria with the help of co-conspirators in Canada and elsewhere.
A statement by the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney Jacqueline Romero, said the suspect was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail, and 16 counts of wire fraud.
The statement read, “The defendant and his co-conspirators are alleged to have obtained more than $31,000,000 through this multi-faceted fraud scheme, with the overwhelming majority of that money – more than $30 million – coming from the State of New York for the intended purchase of ventilators.
“The scheme alleged in the Indictment began in September 2018, with a spam email campaign that offered phoney ‘work from home’ jobs. When a person responded to the phoney 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.
“A co-conspirator 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. As alleged in the Indictment, Obasi and his co-conspirators obtained more than $1 million in this manner.
“The Indictment further alleges that 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 Indonesia-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale and claimed to have a large stockpile of ventilators manufactured by a German company whose headquarters was in Telford, PA.
“The defendant 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 to purchase ventilators that did not exist. Obasi continued to target other potential customers with this same scam, including hospitals.
“Later, in approximately June 2020, the Indictment alleges that Obasi and his co-conspirators took advantage of the EID Loan program by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds.
“Obasi is presently a fugitive, and the United States is seeking to locate and arrest him. Anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts should contact their local FBI Office.”
The statement added that Obasi would face a maximum sentence of 621 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine if caught and convicted. Obasi will also be required to make full restitution of the more than $31,000,000 he obtained by fraud.
According to the security agency, the case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney, Michael S. Lowe.