Chidozie Collins Obasi, a Nigerian, has been declared wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly defrauding New York more than $30 million over the sale of “non-existent” ventilators.
According to the FBI, Obasi, 29, allegedly posed as a representative of an Indonesian-based medical supply company offering ventilators for sale in 2018 t0 2020 during the peak of COVID-19.
In a statement, the 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.
According to Romero, Obasi’s scam was targeted at 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.
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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.
The FBI also alleged that Obasi and a co-conspirator offered phony work-from-home jobs to US citizens in September 2018 to obtain more than $1 million.
“When a person responded to the phony job offer, Obasi or a co-conspirator posed as a representative of a legitimate company, often a supposed medical equipment supplier based outside the United States, and offered the person a job as the company’s U.S. representative with responsibilities including collecting on outstanding invoices,” the statement reads..
“A co-conspirator in Canada then sent the new “employee” counterfeit checks purportedly from customers of the company, and the new “employee” deposited the checks, took a commission, and wired the rest of the money to a foreign bank account ostensibly owned by the fake company.
“As alleged in the indictment, Obasi and his co-conspirators obtained more than $1 million in this manner.”
According to the FBI, Obasi is a fugitive and risks a maximum sentence of 621 years in prison if caught and convicted.