Bamidele Muraina aka Dele Ewe, 35, of Osogbo, Nigeria, has been sentenced to 70 months in prison and ordered to pay $561,125.62 in restitution, while his conspirator, Gabriel Kalembo, 33, of Zambian, was sentenced to 50 months in prison and ordered to pay $298,008.71 in restitution.
According to the U.S Justice Department, “These defendants stole funds from programs meant to assist American workers and families seeking to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dele engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the Employment Security Department of Washington State (“ESD-WA”) by filing dozens of fraudulent unemployment insurance (UI) claims in the names of identity theft victims who were not entitled to such benefits.
These criminals shamelessly stole people’s hard-earned tax returns and money meant to help families during the pandemic.
Between at least January 29, 2018 and continuing through approximately April 2020, Dele hacked into multiple tax preparation and accounting firms located in several states.
He obtained access to the firms’ accounts with a national tax preparation program, stole personally identifiable information from their clients, and filed more than 275 fraudulent individual income tax returns in their names, exceeding $2.6m.
Also, between May 9 and 16, 2020, he used stolen personally identifiable information from Washington residents to submit false claims for unemployment insurance benefits under the federal COVID-19 pandemic relief program.
Based on his fraudulent claims submitted in the names of approximately 50 residents, the State of Washington issued more than $280,000 in unemployment benefits.
His co-conspirators, including Gabriel Kalembo, recruited Zambian nationals to travel to the U.S on tourist visas to incorporate sham corporations in Georgia and open business bank accounts in the names of those corporations.
After the fraudulent funds were deposited into those accounts, Kalembo laundered the funds by cashing money orders purchased with debit cards linked to the accounts.