Chidozie Collins Obasi, a 29-year-old Nigerian man, has been listed as wanted in the US for alleged fraud.
Obasi is charged with defrauding US hospitals out of $31 million by advertising for sale COVID-19 ventilators that didn’t exist.
In a statement released on Friday, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) claimed that between September 2018 and June 2020, the suspect operated the scheme out of Nigeria with the assistance of foreign co-conspirators.
Obasi and his associates are accused of obtaining more than $31,000,000 through a complex fraud scheme, the majority of which came from the State of New York.
“According to the indictment, the scheme began in September 2018 with a spam email campaign offering bogus “work from home” jobs.” When a person responded to the bogus job offer, Obasi or a co-conspirator pretended to be a representative of a legitimate company, often a fictitious medical equipment supplier based outside the United States, and offered the person a position as the company’s U.S. representative, with responsibilities including collecting on outstanding invoices.
“An accomplice in Canada then sent the new ’employee’ counterfeit checks purportedly from the company’s customers, and the new ’employee’ deposited the checks, took a commission, and wired the remaining funds to a foreign bank account ostensibly owned by the fake company.” Obasi and his co-conspirators received more than $1 million as a result of this scheme.
“By 2020, Obasi had gone so far as to pose as a ventilator salesman for an Indonesian medical supply company.”
“In March 2020, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States and ventilators were in high demand, Obasi posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale, claiming to have a large stockpile of ventilators manufactured by a German company.”
“Obasi allegedly persuaded a medical equipment broker in the United States to broker sales of these non-existent ventilators, ultimately duping the State of New York into wiring more than $30 million for the purchase of non-existent ventilators.”
“He continued to target other potential customers, including hospitals, with this same scam.”
“Later, in approximately June 2020, Obasi and his associates took advantage of the EID Loan program by applying for and receiving more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds using stolen identities of US citizens,” the statement read.
Obasi, who is currently a fugitive and wanted by the US, is charged with “one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and sixteen counts of wire fraud,” according to the indictment sheet.
If found guilty, he faces a maximum sentence of 21 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine, as well as full restitution for the more than $31,000,000 he allegedly obtained through fraud.