US declares Nigerian wanted for $30m COVID-19 fraud, suspect faces 621 years in prison

A Nigerian, Chidozie Collins Obasi is wanted by the United States government for defrauding its citizens between 2018 and 2020.

U.S. Attorney Jacqueline C. Romero said he’s charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, six counts of mail fraud, and 16 counts of wire fraud.

The scam targeted Americans through a spam email campaign offering “work from home” jobs. During COVID-19, it shifted to targeting U.S. hospitals and medical systems, offering non-existent ventilators for sale.

The fraud shifted again to using the stolen identity information of American citizens to apply for and obtain Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EID Loans”).

The authorities say Obasi perpetrated the fraud from Nigeria, with the help of co-conspirators in Canada and other countries.

The defendant and others are alleged to have obtained over $31 million; more than $30 million were gotten from the State of New York for the intended purchase of ventilators.

In the fraud which began in September 2018, Obasi or a co-conspirator posed as a representative of a company and offered a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities of collecting outstanding invoices.

In March 2020, when ventilators were in high demand, Obasi posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale.

The defendant allegedly convinced a medical equipment broker in the U.S. to negotiate non-existent ventilators; more than $30 million were wired from the State of New York to them for the supposed purchase.

In June 2020, Obasi and his co-conspirators took advantage of the EID Loan program by using stolen identities of U.S. citizens to apply for and obtain more than $135,000 in EID Loan proceeds.

The Department of Justice declared the Nigerian a fugitive and urged anyone with knowledge of his whereabouts to contact their local FBI Office.

Obasi faces a maximum sentence of 621 years in prison, five years of supervised release, and a $5,750,000 fine.

The defendant will be required to make full restitution of the more than $31 million. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Michael S. Lowe.