- UAE-based Nigerian, Olaekan Jacob Ponle, who used a network of fraudsters to scam U.S. businesses, has been sentenced to 8 years in prison.
- The fraud scheme involved mimicking corporate entities and tricking employees into transferring funds via phishing emails.
- Ponle, known as Woodberry, splashed his scam-acquired wealth on luxury vehicles, which are now being seized in addition to paying over $8 million in restitution.
An individual hailing from the UAE with roots in Nigeria was recently dealt an 8-year incarceration by the federal court for masterminding a fraudulent operation worth millions of dollars that conned businesses throughout the U.S., as stated by Illinois federal prosecutors.
Known as Olaekan Jacob Ponle in legal terms, this man was handed over from the UAE into the protective custody of the FBI in July 2020. His detention continued until he finally admitted his guilt to a sole count of wire fraud early this year, according to the Justice Department's public announcement on Tuesday.
The intriguing part of Ponle's fraudulent operations was his collusion with a cluster of other scammers. Together, they posed as corporate entities and took advantage of phishing emails to lure their unsuspecting victims. The staff, under the impression that they were acting on their employers' orders, were in reality making payments to the scheming Ponle and his gang.
In his homeland, Nigeria, Ponle was somewhat of a low-key celebrity, thanks to his blatant exhibitions of his ill-gotten wealth on various social media platforms. He adopted the alias of Woodberry and flaunted his luxurious lifestyle, funded by the proceeds of his scams.
This cunning con-artist leveraged a network of "mules" to accept the fraudulent funds, which were then transformed into Bitcoin and redirected to him. Ponle used these ill-gotten gains to splurge on luxury vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Cullinan and a Lamborghini Urus.
Ponle has been ordered to surrender these assets, collectively worth over $1 million, and reimburse victimized companies to the tune of more than $8 million. He has already forfeited 151 bitcoin, which held a value of over $4.5 million as of Wednesday.
The intriguing aspect of Ponle's case is the fact that he was prosecuted despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the UAE and the United States. Federal officials from the DOJ'S Office of International Affairs joined forces with their UAE counterparts to facilitate Ponle's rendition.
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