Pleads Guilty to Mail Fraud, Money Laundering, and Theft from a 401(k) Plan
NEWARK—A former Newark resident who earlier this year was extradited from Nigeria today admitted his role in a scheme to use stolen identities to loot retirement accounts, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Rasheed Mustapha, 35, who lived in Newark at the time the crimes were committed, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz in Newark federal court to an indictment charging him with mail fraud conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and theft from a 401(k) plan.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Mustapha and his conspirators gained access to seven different 401(k) retirement accounts using confidential customer identity information. Mustapha stole this information through his employment as a customer service representative at a Little Falls, New Jersey, call center for the retirement accounts. After taking over the accounts, Mustapha and others tried to clean them out by having rollover checks issued, mailed to members of the conspiracy, and deposited into bank accounts they controlled under various aliases in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona. Mustapha and the conspirators ultimately stole more than $750,000 in checks from the retirement accounts and managed to withdraw substantial proceeds from those checks before one of Mustapha’s co-defendants was arrested. Mustapha fled to Nigeria, where he was arrested March 12, 2011. He was extradited to this county on February 15, 2012.
The company that sponsored the targeted 401(k) accounts has made whole those accounts, with interest, and incurred more than $800,000 in losses as a result.
Mustapha faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison each for mail fraud and money laundering count (counts one and 10) and another five years in prison for his theft from a 401(k) plan conviction (count 23). The mail fraud and theft from a 401(k) plan convictions each carry a maximum $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. The money laundering conviction carries a maximum $500,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss or twice the laundered proceeds. He is scheduled to be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Katharine S. Hayden on November 14, 2012.
The other three individuals charged in the superseding indictment have all pleaded guilty before Judge Hayden and been sentenced:
■Maxwell Owoeye, 33, a Nigerian citizen formerly residing in Hackettstown, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to counts one, 10, and 23 of the superseding indictment, charging conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and theft from a 401(k) plan, on February 28, 2009. He was sentenced on July 28, 2009, to 63 months in prison.
■Adeyemo Popoola, 28, a Nigerian citizen formerly residing in New Brunswick, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to count one of the superseding indictment, charging conspiracy to commit mail fraud, on January 17, 2009. He was sentenced on September 14, 2009, to 18 months in prison.
■Faruk Oncel, 45, a Turkish citizen formerly residing in Paterson, New Jersey, pleaded guilty to count 27 of the superseding indictment on July 28, 2009. He was sentenced on March 16, 2010, to 27 months in prison.
Eight other residents of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Arizona who participated in Mustapha’s scheme have pleaded guilty and been sentenced in related cases: Yuksel Bakar, Ozer Bilgi, Na’eem Blackston, Terrell Brunson, José Cantero, Shawn Jackson, Joseph Prempeh, and Gursel Yilmaz.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward; special agents of the U.S. Secret Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jacob Christine; and postal inspectors with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, under the direction of Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
He also thanked the FBI Legal Attache in Lagos, Nigeria; the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission; and the U.S. State Department, as well as the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs for its assistance in effecting Mustapha’s extradition. U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked the Attorney General of the Federation, Minister of Justice, and the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark E. Coyne of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark.