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Judge: Stephanie A. Gallagher
Court: United States District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland
Description: Baltimore, Maryland criminal defense lawyer represented defendant charged with for conspiracy to commit access device fraud.
In 2020, Idown Raji, age 40, of Baltimore, Maryland, conspired with multiple other individuals to defraud, use, and traffic in unauthorized access devices and obtain more than $900,000 in unemployment insurance and other COVID-19 related benefits. Moreover, from October 2018 to November 2020, Raji conspired with multiple individuals, including Adewumi Abioye, age 35, of Randallstown, Maryland and Lukman Salam, age 37, of Delaware, to defraud multiple businesses, individuals, and financial institutions to illegally obtain more than $750,000.
In furtherance of the access device conspiracy, Raji admitted arranging for the delivery of fraudulent unemployment insurance cards to his co-conspirators, providing instructions on the use of the cards, and obtaining a portion of the fraudulently obtained proceeds. In total, Raji admitted that he was involved in fraudulent unemployment claims that used the identities of more than 50 real people and caused more than $900,000 in losses to state and the federal governments.
Raji admitted using an encrypted text messaging application to carry out his crimes, including to coordinate the use of unemployment insurance and COVID-19 related benefits, obtain and transfer the personal identifying information of real individuals, and receive unemployment debit cards that were mailed to addresses in Maryland and loaded with fraudulently obtained benefits. Raji also directed the use of the fraudulently obtained debit cards to engage in point of sale and ATM transactions. He also used the state and federal government funds intended for disaster relief for his own benefit.
As part of his wire fraud conspiracy, co-conspirators Salam and Abioye used fake identification documents to open bank accounts, which Raji then coordinated the use of the accounts to receive fraud proceeds. For example, in November 2019, Salam opened a bank account at a financial institution using a fake passport with the alias “Chris Hobert.” In December 2019, the email account of a supervisor at a victim business was hacked, and an email was sent to the victim business that fraudulently claimed that another business had changed its payment instructions. As a result, the victim business sent a $33,200 wire to a fraudulent account opened by Salam. Raji worked with his co-conspirators to move the funds to another account registered under the alias “Michael Stone,” and to eventually gain access to the fraud proceeds.
Further, in July 2020, Raji fraudulently applied for a $31,200 Paycheck Protection Program loan on behalf of a business, Yours Truly LLC. Raji claimed that his business had more than $132,000 of gross revenue in the prior year when, in fact, it did not. Moreover, Raji did not spend the proceeds of the loan on employee salaries and other appropriate expenses required by the PPP loan.
As stated in his plea agreement, when Raji was arrested by federal agents in November 2020, he made multiple false statements to agents, including that he had never been involved in business email compromise schemes, wire fraud, or unemployment insurance fraud. Raji also falsely claimed that he never used Yours Truly LLC when he had received federal loans through the entity less than six months before the interview.
In April and May 2022 co-defendants Abioye and Salam were sentenced to 27 months and 30 months in federal prison; respectively for conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Hameed Adesokan, Olatunde Vincent, Akolade Ojo, and Damilola Lawal will be sentenced later this year in related cases.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) Fraud Task Force was established to serve the American public by promoting transparency and facilitating coordinated oversight of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response. The PRAC Fraud Task Force brings together agents from its 22 member Inspectors General to investigate fraud involving a variety of programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program. Task force agents who are detailed to the PRAC receive expanded authority to investigate pandemic fraud as well as tools and training to support their investigations.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended HSI, DSS, the U.S. Department of Labor-OIG, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry M. Gruber, who prosecuted the case.
Outcome: Defendant was sentenced to 94 months in prison.