A Diaspora Nigeria money transfer company, Ping Express, pleads guilty and is indicted for failure to combat money laundering.
Assistant U.S. District Attorney John de la Garza successfully prosecuted the company and jailed four of its key staff.
Court records showed that in three years, the company wired more than $167 million overseas. A lion share of the funds ($160 million) went to Nigeria.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas, Chad E. Meacham, said on Wednesday that the Company admitted it failed to guard against money laundering,
Authorities subsequently charged the company CEO, Chief Operating officer, and IT Development Manager to court. In addition, one other staff pleaded guilty to receiving bribes to aid illegal transfers.
Prosecutors accused Ping of going beyond its mandate by charging fees to remit money to Africa.
Authorities busted the company for illegal currency exchange, concealment of suspicious money transfers, and operating in non-licensed states.
In court pleadings, officials claimed they set stringent rules to check fraud, but staff colluded with customers to violate them.
One of the rules is for daily, weekly, and monthly transactions for first-time customers to not exceed $499, $3,000, and $4,500.
Investigators however found that over 1,500 customers violated the rule.
“In one instance, Ping allowed a customer to remit more than $80,000 in a single month – more than 17 times the purported limit.”
The prosecutor also accused Ping of straying into states where it was not authorized to do business. The states were Nevada, New Jersey, Utah, West Virginia, and Connecticut, outside authorized areas – Texas, Maryland, Georgia, Washington, and Washington.
Company officials admitted that software installed to detect and deter transactions in unlicensed states failed to function.
Three key staff of Ping pleaded guilty to willfully or unknowing aiding fraud. They include CEO Anslem Oshionebo COO Opeyemi Odeyale, and IT/ Business Development Manager, Aleoghena Okhumale.
Oshionebo and Odeyale pleaded guilty to failure to maintain an effective anti-money laundering program. Okhumale, pleaded guilty to knowingly transmitting illegally-derived funds.
Oshionebo and Odeyale are to spend 27 months each in federal prison as punishment, while Okhumale received 42 months.
Prosecutors charged a fourth staff alongside two unnamed top customers of Ping. The staff, Collins Orogun, admitted that he received fees to aid money transfers for “romance scam” fraudsters and other criminals.
Within two years, he raked in more than $1.3 million in cash, cashier’s checks, and wires into several U.S. bank accounts he controlled.
Investigators said Orogun quickly moved more than $1 million of the funds to Africa through Ping.
Examples of the frauds listed by the prosecution included:
- an Indiana woman who sent $15,00 to “Carson Jacks,” a “purported oil roughneck in the Gulf of Mexico she fell in love with online.” The scammer said he had contracted malaria.
- a second Indiana woman sent $6,300 to “Thomas Ken,” a “purported Irish ship captain she fell in love with online.” The “captain” claimed he needed the money to fix his ship.
The company could end up on probation for five years after paying a fine of up to $500,000. The judge has set 19 December 2022 for sentencing.
Homeland Security Dallas’ Field Office with assistance from the Texas Department of Banking investigated the fraud.
“Through our special agents and forensic accountants, we work endlessly to eradicate crimes involving money laundering and bulk cash smuggling,” said Christopher Miller, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Dallas.
“Our investigative reach provides access to a wide range of financial networks allowing HSI to disrupt any criminal organization attempting to exploit global trade.”
Diaspora Nigeria company indicted in US for fraud