Two men from Fridley have admitted to being part of a massive conspiracy that defrauded or tried to defraud $50 million from 11 of the nation's biggest banks, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for Minnesota.
Jude Obira Okafor, 45, and Okwuchukwu Emmanuel Jidoefor (no age given), each pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting bank fraud—a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.
Jidoefor pled guilty on Feb. 12, 2012, and Okafor on Dec. 19, 2011.
They are among 27 co-conspirators federal officials identified in an investigation dubbed Operation Starburst that covered six states over a five-year period from 2006–2011.
'Tentacles' in Fridley
The case was complex enought that U.S. Attorney's Office news release itself spread over six pages (see PDF). In itm Special Agent in Charge Stephens of the U.S. Secret Service said:
“This wide spread criminal conspiracy had tentacles reaching throughout Minnesota and the United States as well as other parts of the world. ... These criminals and others like them exploit a tremendous advantage in that they are not limited to local, state, or national boundaries, like law enforcement must face. The model used by the Minnesota Financial Crimes Task Force—bringing together investigators and analysts from local, state, and federal agencies—leveled the playing field for us.”
"We were involved with the Secret Service in this case on a very minimal scale," Fridley Police Lt. Mike Monsrud said by email Tuesday. "We did assist the Secret Service with some assistance here in Fridley, but I cannot comment on those exact details."
According to the release, the people involved in the fraud ring conspired
to buy and sell stolen identification information that was ultimately used to open fraudulent bank and credit card accounts, apply for bank loans, and obtain cash. They then drafted checks against the fraudulent bank accounts and altered checks for deposit into those accounts. They also acquired cash from the fraudulent credit card accounts and used the false credit cards to purchase merchandise. In addition, they co-opted other people’s home equity lines of credit without their knowledge or consent and used them for personal benefit.