A 25-year-old Nigerian man who was residing in Houston has pleaded guilty to perpetuating a wire fraud scheme involving various Internet scams, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez.
Wiseman Oputa pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Beginning Jan. 1, 2016, until Jan. 25, 2017, Oputa used counterfeit passports to open bank accounts in the greater Houston area. The passports contained photographs of Oputa but had different names and identification information. He then worked with others to lure victims into sending money into these bank accounts.
These funds were obtained through a variety of internet scams, including business email compromise, romance schemes and unauthorized intrusions into company email accounts. Checks or wire transfers were then sent from the company’s accounts payable to accounts Oputa or others controlled. Oputa would then use the counterfeit passports to retrieve the fraudulently obtained funds.
In one instance in December 2016, Oputa opened an account at Regions Bank with a counterfeit Ghanaian passport as identification. Shortly thereafter the account received a wire transfer of $40,000 from a victim who had been told to send money for taxes on money he had won in Spain. USAA Bank identified the fraudulent and was able to recal the wire.
U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett accepted the guilty plea and has set sentencing for July 6, 2017. At that time, Oputa faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a possible $250,000 maximum fine. He will remain in custody pending that hearing.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation along with Department of State – Diplomatic Security Service and the Secret Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady is prosecuting the case.