Nigerians sentenced in check-altering scam
Thursday, April 21, 2005
By BRENDAN KIRBY
Two Nigerian nationals received breaks on their sentences for bank fraud
Senior U.S. District Judge Charles Butler
sentenced Adrian Chike Okakpu,
25, to two years in prison and gave Okwudili Umenyiora, 26, 18 months.
Both get credit for the months they've been jailed since their arrests
The men, both from the Atlanta area, must
make restitution totaling
$131,867 and face likely deportation after completing their sentences.
According to U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigators, the men stole
commercial checks from various companies and altered the payee line. They
then recruited people, including two from Mobile, to cash the checks and
give the money to them in cashier's checks. The total they tried to steal
exceeded $400,000, according to court documents.
An indictment listed three companies
whose checks were altered: Coca-Cola
Co. ($6,974), Walter Concrete of Stockbridge, Ga., ($174,200) and
Rock-Tenn Co. of Norcross, Ga. ($124,893).
Federal prosecutors asked the judge to
give the defendants prison terms
half as long as the sentences called for under advisory sentencing
guidelines. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michel Nicrosi, however, laid out the
reasons privately. Butler took the recommendation out of earshot of the
public so as not to jeopardize the ongoing investigation.
Nicrosi told Butler in open court that
Okakpu's cooperation has been
crucial in the investigation of a check-stealing operation that extends
far beyond Mobile.
"He is high enough in the chain that he
was very critical. ... That really
cracked it," she said.
Butler gave the defendants even less
time, but sentenced Okakpu to six
more months because of his criminal record. The men, in separate hearings,
said they were sorry.
"I want to apologize to you, your honor,
to God, to the United States and
to the victims in this case," Okakpu said. "I'm very sorry, and I promise
it will never happen again. If I could take things back, I would."
Okakpu's attorney, J. Gullatte Hunter
III, noted his client's fiancee gave
birth to his son since he has been jailed.
"I don't believe he has seen his baby
before today," Hunter said.
Added Okakpu, "He's given me new meaning on life. ... I'm completely
Umenyiora's lawyer, Domingo Soto, said
his client has a degree in finance
from Auburn University and a brother, Osi Umenyiora, who plays defensive
end for the New York Giants. He said his client got mixed up in "some
Soto said the most serious sanction
facing Umenyiora and Okakpu is the
prospect of being sent back to Nigeria, from which they emigrated as
A third co-defendant indicted in Mobile,
Oluyomi Oshinakie, remains at
large. Four others, Stanley Ragin and Turvoris Fair of the Atlanta area,
and Rosa Gullett and Kim Williams of Mobile, were granted pretrial
intervention, giving them the opportunity of having the charges dropped if
they stay out of trouble for 18 months.
DOM SOTO'S HOMEPAGE