Skip to comments.The king of home equity fraud (A modern 'Catch me if you can' thief)
Posted on 02/02/2011 8:33:36 AM PST by spetznaz
FORTUNE -- A luxury suite at the W Hotel in Dallas is as good a place as any to conquer the world. At least it seemed that way in 2007 when Tobechi Onwuhara got the crew together. They'd meet there often, seven or eight of them. Some had nicknames from the Ian Fleming lexicon: C, Q, and E. Others were called Mookie, Orji, Uche. They would spread out on designer sofas and at the wet bar, open three-ring binders, and fire up laptops with hard-to-trace wireless cards. On a nearby table there'd be prepaid cellphones with area codes taped to them. A phone for Southern California. A phone for Northern Virginia. A phone for any place Onwuhara had found the "good money."
In those days, the good money wasn't hard to find. The housing boom had flooded the country with capital. Lenders were making promiscuous loans to unsophisticated borrowers. It was an ideal environment for Onwuhara, 27, a brilliant, pug-faced visionary who favored True Religion jeans and Ed Hardy shirts. When the sun glinted off one of his $100,000 diamond-encrusted Audemars Piguet watches, who could doubt it? Every few months he would buy a new Maserati or Bentley. He owned expensive properties in Miami, Dallas, and Phoenix.
The truth was very different. In his ancestral homeland, Onwuhara might have been a chief. In America he became one of the world's most successful cyberscammers, a criminal genius who used his talents to filet a poorly regulated banking and credit system. In less than three years Onwuhara stole a confirmed $44 million, according to the FBI, which believes the total may be anywhere from $80 million to $100 million. All he needed was an Internet connection and a cellphone
(Excerpt) Read more at money.cnn.com ...
Onwuhara called it "washing." He'd set up a boiler room in a fancy hotel (the Waldorf-Astoria was another favorite) to wash information on wealthy victims. Then he'd wash bank accounts. One group in his crew would do online research using databases and websites to harvest names, dates of birth, and mortgage information. They'd build profiles of victims for a second group, who would call banks posing as account holders. The callers cadged security information and passwords. Then Onwuhara would breach the accounts and wire funds from them to a network of money mules he had established in Asia. The money would be laundered and wired back to his accounts in the U.S.
"I call it modern-day bank robbery," says FBI special agent Michael Nail. "You can sit at home in your PJs and slippers with a laptop, and you can actually rob a bank."
Onwuhara specialized in hitting home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), the reservoirs of cash that banks make available to homeowners. Once Onwuhara gained access to a HELOC, he could siphon out vast sums in seconds. His weapon was persuasion. It got him enough money to start building a colonnaded fortress in Nigeria; enough to gamble at the high-stakes tables in Vegas casinos all night. Even his accomplices appear not to have known how much he was really pulling down -- not even his beautiful fiancée, Precious Matthews.
Much more at the link.
This guy needs a dirt nap.
Not the same as the usual crooks who made away with a lot of loot during the housing run, but for an individual he made away with quite a lot - confirmed take of $44 million (and as per the FBI probably as much as $100 million). Guess you do not have to work at Goldman to cleanly rob the bank.
>> This guy needs a dirt nap.
First, however, a full body “washing” with battery acid, paying particularly close attention to the eyes and genital area. Follow that with a full-strength lye enema to “wash” that colon of his.
By then he’ll be ready for his nappy. :-)
$3.5M a week, not too shabby. (Good read).
Good grief! How do you think up those things? I’d have a nervous tic too if I had that stuff in my mind. I’d hate to be your enemy.
LOL! “non melior amicus, non nequior hostis”
FWIW, I’m really not such a mean person; I just play one on the Internet. :-)
I don’t want to sound racist, but couldn’t help but notice the “Nigerian” connection in this fascinating story. Do Nigerians have “scam DNA” in their blood?
“Using ListSource, a direct-marketing company, he’d collect mortgage information on married couples with million-dollar homes. They qualified for high HELOCs. He’d find lease or loan papers through public databases and pay sites, then use Photoshop to grab homeowners’ signatures off documents. Next, he’d build a profile of the victim by paying for a background search through skip-tracing sites. That would give him birth dates, Social Security numbers, names of relatives, previous addresses, employment histories, and more. To get a mother’s maiden name he would use Ancestry.com.”
Onwuharas background is equally complex, full of research and learning along with a history of crime. Onwuhara worked for Capital One after graduating college. There he studied how banks worked and what documents they possessed. Soon he started creating credit cards and licenses under actual names. He was arrested in Texas for credit card fraud in 2002 three times. From then on his life revolved around getting caught and relocating. All of the people who helped him along the way have been indicted and pleaded guilty, yet, the article states the FBI claim to not know his whereabouts at this moment, and he has a $25,000 bounty on his head.
Onwuhara favored True Religion jeans and Ed Hardy shirts........and $100,000 diamond-encrusted Audemars Piguet watches...
07/10/10--- Audemars Piguet was celebrating its 135th Anniversary with the Launch of a High-powered New Chronograph.
BACKES & STRAUSS The Royal Berkeley 43, Limited Edition Watch
The launch and the party was held in the Choice! restaurant on the third floor of the prestigious Ark Mori building. The event was attended by a total of 500 guests including VIP, celebrities and media. Backes & Strauss present their most exclusive and luxurious watch, the bespoke Royal Berkeley 43, the most important masterpiece to date. The watch from the Berkeley Collection is inspired by one of Londons Berkeley Square which has particular resonance for Backes & Strauss, for its great plane of trees, among the oldest in London, was planted in 1789, the same year Backes & Strauss was established. The 18kt white gold case is incrusted by hand with 44 custom cut diamonds weighing 12.44 carats and the dial hand set with 96 custom cut diamonds weighing 15.43 carats.
The bespoke, full diamond bracelet is hand set with 189 custom cut hand polished diamonds. The back of the watch is open and through the sapphire glass you will see the decorated movement, each one of the five pieces will be individually engraved by the craftsman, one of five, two of five and such like. The five watches are then unified with Backes & Strauss engraved on each Platinum Rotor. The watch made with automatic movement rotor with platinum segment. It displays hours, minutes and seconds. The design includes 330 diamonds weighing 106.45 cts. Its case is 18kt white gold, set with 44 custom cut diamonds, 12.44 carats. The dial features 96 custom cut diamonds weighing 15.41 carats and the bracelet a 189 custom cut diamonds weighing 78.32 carats. The collection is limited to only 5 pieces.
True Religion is starting a series of jean ads featuring model Marisa Miller.
Marisa Miller was the covergirl of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit issue---trades bikini for jeans.
True Religion CEO Jeffrey Lubell said in a press statement that the company is going for a hippie-bohemian-chic look. True Religion is also expanding its line into handbags, footwear, swimwear and headwear. Under the direction of True Religion founder, chairman, chief executive officer and creative director Jeffrey Lubell, the women's ad images were shot in Malibu, California by photographer Ashley Barrett, whose clients include Dior, Bloomingdale's, Elle, and Women's Wear Daily.
The women's ads showcase supermodel Marisa Miller, a Victoria's Secret Angel and the 2008 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition cover girl, in True Religion's premium denim, distinctive knits and sportswear, swimwear, footwear and accessories. The men's ads feature the Nathan Giant Big T in the newly introduced Blacklight denim group.
"For our inaugural advertising campaign, we wanted to capture the hippie-bohemian-chic spirit of True Religion," said Jeffrey Lubell, chairman and chief executive officer of True Religion Apparel, Inc.
"We are pleased to have Marisa Miller as the face of True Religion in this campaign, as she epitomizes the look of our brand. This campaign also shows how we are expanding our line, with handbags, footwear, swimwear and headwear all coordinated from a single design vision."
I want the CIA to hire this guy and point him at the Saudi’s and the other funders of terrorism. Drain them dry.
Give him a Letter of Marquis and a target list. Take 50% for compensating his past victims and give him a cell phone.
You'd really, really hate to be my enemy. ;-)
I don’t know whether that would apply for this particular chap, but I have always wondered why alphabet-soup agencies never hired some of those hackers who get thrown in prison for (the more spectacular) hacks and the like. It always seems like a waste of talent, particularly considering what they could be put to use doing in exchange for their freedom.