Olamide Yusuf Bakare, a 26-year-old Nigerian national residing in Laurel, Maryland, has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for his involvement in a wire fraud conspiracy during the COVID-19 pandemic, as announced by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert.
Bakare had previously pleaded guilty in January 2023, and the conspiracy took place between June 2020 and July 2021. Alongside co-defendants Quazeem Owolabi Adeyinka and Ayodeji Jonathan Sangode, Bakare participated in submitting fraudulent unemployment insurance (UI) and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims to Maryland and California.
More than 200 fraudulent applications were filed with the California Employment Development Department (EDD) and the Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL), falsely indicating that the claimants resided in the defendants’ shared Hyattsville, Maryland, apartment.
The conspirators obtained personal information from individuals who were ineligible for UI or PUA benefits or had not authorized the defendants to act on their behalf. They used this information to submit fraudulent claims, making false representations about the claimants’ employment history, income, and eligibility for benefits.
The scheme led EDD and MDOL to approve at least 142 fraudulent claims, resulting in the disbursement of benefit funds into debit card accounts administered by Bank of America. Bakare and his co-conspirators obtained these debit cards and withdrew cash at ATMs for their benefit.
During the investigation, it was discovered that Bakare possessed three additional UI debit cards linked to accounts with fraudulent benefits from different states. He possessed these cards with the intent to defraud the state agencies.
In total, the debit cards linked to fraudulent UI and PUA benefits received approximately $2,265,844. Bakare used a portion of this money to purchase a condominium in Lekki, Lagos State, Nigeria, for 70 million nairas, which was ordered forfeited as part of his sentence.
His co-defendants, Adeyinka and Sangode, also pleaded guilty to related charges and are scheduled for sentencing in August 2023. Adeyinka faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison, while Sangode faces a maximum of 15 years, pending consideration of relevant statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.