Fraud al­leged with dis­as­ter re­lief funds

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Becky Ja­cobs Post-Tri­bune re­ja­[email protected] Twit­ter @ruthy­ja­cobs

A man is ac­cused of tak­ing thou­sands of dol­lars in Ham­mond from the Amer­i­can Red Cross that was in­tended for Texas hur­ri­cane vic­tims, court records show.

Olan­re­waju A. Beyioku, 38, was charged Nov. 8 with wire fraud in a crim­i­nal com­plaint in Ham­mond’s fed­eral court.

Hur­ri­cane Har­vey struck the Hous­ton area Aug. 25, 2017, “caus­ing ex­treme dam­age,” the com­plaint states.

The Red Cross set up a link on its web­site where hur­ri­cane vic­tims could ap­ply for a one-time $400 cash as­sis­tance pay­ment that could be re­deemed with a ref­er­ence code at a Wal­mart money cen­ter or cus­tomer ser­vice desk, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. Af­ter the codes were distributed in Septem­ber 2017, Red Cross “re­ceived mul­ti­ple calls re­port­ing that peo­ple who were not hur­ri­cane vic­tims were cash­ing in mul­ti­ple ref­er­ence codes at var­i­ous Wal­mart stores across the United States.”

The Wal­mart in the 7800 block of Ca­bela Drive in Ham­mond had 81 fraud­u­lent transactions to­tal­ing $32,400 be­tween Oct. 12 and Oct. 16, 2017, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. Nine of those transactions, amount­ing to $3,600, were made be­tween Oct. 12 and Oct. 13, 2017, by Beyioku, it states.

Beyioku made three fraud­u­lent transactions the morn­ing of Oct. 13, 2017, at the Wal­mart, re­ceiv­ing $1,200 in cash, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. He left the store driv­ing a white Chevrolet Up­lan­der mini­van, court records state, then around 3:15 p.m. that day, he re­turned to the Wal­mart in a Ford Freestar mini­van and made one fraud­u­lent trans­ac­tion for $400. Beyioku sat in his ve­hi­cle be­fore re­turn­ing to the store about 30 min­utes later to make an­other three fraud­u­lent transactions for $1,200 in cash, the com­plaint states.

Each time, Beyioku signed a re­ceipt that read, “The Amer­i­can Red Cross pro­vides this gift which is made pos­si­ble by the gen­eros­ity of the Amer­i­can Pub- lic,” ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

All of the ref­er­ence codes that were re­deemed by Beyioku were sent to vari­a­tions of the same email ad­dress, court records state.

“Beyioku was not the in­tended re­cip­i­ent of any of the dis­as­ter re­lief ref­er­ence codes,” the com­plaint states. “In fact, the Red Cross al­lot­ted each house­hold af­fected by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey only one ref­er­ence code.”

Beyioku used the names “Ake Nathan” and “Papa Smith Mor­gan,” a name de­ter­mined to be his alias, to buy money or­ders, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint. Beyioku was seen in a white Chevy Up­lan­der, which matched the ve­hi­cle seen on Wal­mart sur­veil­lance, at a Jewel-Osco in Mun­ster where he de­posited money to a bank ac­count be­long­ing to “Papa Smith Mor­gan,” the com­plaint states.

Beyioku’s driver’s li­cense listed an ad­dress in the 700 block of McKin­ley Street in Gary where an in­ves­ti­ga­tor saw a parked Chevy Up­lan­der that matched the one at the Wal­mart and JewelOsco, ac­cord­ing to the com­plaint.

Beyioku

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