Eighteen months after his arrest, Obinwanne Okeke, a celebrated Nigerian entrepreneur and businessman, was finally sentenced Tuesday for a multi-million dollar fraud in the United States.
Mr Okeke, who is also known as Invictus Obi, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a computer-based intrusion fraud scheme that caused approximately $11 million in known losses to his victims.
“Through subterfuge and impersonation, Obinwanne Okeke, engaged in a multi-year global business email and computer hacking scheme that caused a staggering $11 million in losses to his victims.
“Today’s sentence further demonstrates EDVA’s and FBI’s worldwide reach in vigorously pursuing justice on behalf of American victims and others and holding international cybercriminals accountable, no matter where they commit their crimes,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia on Wednesday morning.
According to court documents, Mr Okeke, 33, operated a group of companies known as the Invictus Group based in Nigeria and some other African countries.
From approximately 2015 to 2019, Mr Okeke and others engaged in a conspiracy to conduct various computer-based frauds, prosecutors said.
Before his arrest by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in August 2019, Mr Okeke, was listed as one of the influential young entrepreneurs recognised by Forbes.
Also, he was a regular contributor to Forbes Africa magazine where he shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship and investment. The journey of Mr Okeke from the time he was arrested up to the time he was finally sentenced.
August 2, 2019: An arrest warrant was issued following a criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Obinwanne Okeke at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division. The complaints alleged that he and others conspired to commit computer fraud and wire fraud.
August 6, 2019: Mr Okeke was arrested in Alexandria, Virginia, on the same day he planned on return to Nigeria. Apparently, he had travelled to the U.S. without a prior knowledge that he was being investigated by the F.B.I.
August 7, 2019: Mr Okeke appeared before Michael Nachmanoff, a magistrate with the District Court of Eastern District of Virginia, to answer charges of wire fraud. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and was being held at 401 Courthouse Square, Alexandria, which serves as the district headquarters of the U.S. Marshal Service.
September 9, 2019: A federal grand jury returned a two-count Indictment, charging Mr Okeke with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Conspiracy to Commit Computer Fraud.
October 9, 2019: A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, Nigeria ordered the temporary forfeiture of N280 million (approximately $800,000) found in his personal and corporate accounts to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
June 18, 2020: Mr Okeke appeared with the counsel before United States District Judge Robert J. Krask and pleaded guilty to Count 1 of the Indictment. Mr Okeke’s guilty plea was entered in conjunction with the filing of a formal, written Plea Agreement and Statement of Facts.
In his plea agreement, he waived his right to appeal and agreed to forfeit “all interests in any fraud-related assets.”
October 5, 2020: The US court sitting in Eastern District of Virginia, rescheduled Mr Okeke’s sentencing to February 16, 2021, for unknown reasons.
February 3 – 4, 2021: Family members, employees, friends of Mr Okeke, in separate letters addressed to Judge Rebecca Smith, begged for leniency in sentencing.
February 9, 2021: Both Mr Okeke and the U.S government gave their positions ahead of the sentencing. While Mr Okeke begged for a lower sentence, the American government objected, asking the court not to consider any sentence lower than 10 years.
February 16, 2021: Judge Smith sentenced Mr Okeke to 10 years imprisonment.