14-year sen­tence for long­time fraud­ster

Man hired pros­ti­tutes to steal iden­ti­ties

Albuquerque Journal - - NATION & WORLD - BY RACHEL WEINER

A long­time fraud­ster who hired pros­ti­tutes to steal peo­ple’s iden­ti­ties was sen­tenced to 14 years in prison Fri­day.

Michael Oginni stole more than $650,000 over two years, spend­ing the money on call girls, high-end ap­pli­ances for his Rockville, Mary­land, home and tu­ition for his four chil­dren at ex­clu­sive pri­vate schools, ac­cord­ing to prose­cu­tors.

When he was ar­rested at a su­per­mar­ket in Ohio last July, court pa­pers say, Oginni was car­ry­ing 54 fake credit cards, 35 debit cards, sev­eral phones and a lap­top filled with hack­ing and coun­ter­feit­ing soft­ware un­der the file­name “Very Big Fraud Pack­age.zip.”

Dur­ing his sen­tenc­ing hear­ing Fri­day in fed­eral court in Alexan­dria, Vir­ginia, Oginni said he had not ap­pre­ci­ated the hu­man cost of his crimes af­ter plead­ing guilty to fraud and iden­tity theft. “I’m not a mon­ster,” he said. “I’m not an evil man.” But pros­e­cu­tor Laura Fong called him a “crim­i­nal master­mind” who hired vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple to do his dirty work and beat them when they failed to com­ply.

A na­tive of Nige­ria, Oginni came to the United States in 2007 af­ter get­ting out of prison in the United King­dom for stu­dent-loan fraud. In the Wash­ing­ton area, ac­cord­ing to court fil­ings, he re­cruited a band of pros­ti­tutes and heroin ad­dicts to buy gift cards at con­ve­nience stores, wash the mark­ings off with ace­tone and en­code them with stolen credit card in­for­ma­tion.

From a lap­top at a Rockville Star­bucks, Oginni would in­struct his co-con­spir­a­tors on what to wear and say when they used the cards, Fong said.

When credit card com­pa­nies be­gan us­ing chips to pre­vent this kind of fraud, Oginni turned to open­ing new credit ac­counts in strangers’ names. He scouted on­line records for peo­ple with high credit scores and sub­stan­tial wealth, then or­dered coun­ter­feit driv­ers’ li­censes with their in­for­ma­tion but his sub­or­di­nates’ pho­tos.

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