Oluwole Odunowo has been sentenced to 54 months in federal prison for his role in a nationwide conspiracy to commit mail fraud and aggravated identity theft. In May 2020, he pleaded guilty before a court in Oregon.
The IRS began investigating in May 2013, when a woman in Medford, Oregon notified the IRS that false federal and state tax returns were filed electronically. The IRS found that co-conspirators amassed a large supply of stolen U.S. taxpayer identities; obtained IRS filing PINs using victim identities; acquired prepaid debit cards in victims’ names; used fictitious email addresses; filed fraudulent tax returns and wired refund proceeds to Nigeria.
The scheme ran between 2012 and 2015 and netted co-conspirators more than $11.6 million in fraudulent tax returns. Odunowo used 700 stolen identities and filed fraudulent returns seeking over $1.5 million in refund payments. He received refunds totaling $403,000.
According to the Medford Mail Tribune, the scheme began when a Vietnamese hacker got into the databases of CICS Employment Services of Lincoln City, Oregon. He sold 91,732 identities to the ringleader, Emmanuel Kazeem of Maryland. Mr Kazeem was sentenced to 12 years in 2018. Kazeem’s younger brother, Michael, who lived in Georgia, got 7 years in November 2017. Three other Nigerians living in Georgia have also been sent to prison, along with a Wisconsin man, Curtis Pethley.
Because of security breaches tied to Kazeem’s ring, the IRS disabled its “Get Transcript” program in 2015. It was relaunched the following year, with additional security features.