When I talk to bankers and other fraud fighters, I often mention how easy it is for a criminal to get a driver’s license with all the information they want. I was reminded of this again when I saw the sentencing of Desmond Nkwenya of Brookhaven, Georgia, this week. The Eastern District of Virginia DOJ press release issued on February 9, 2024 was titled “Four members of bank fraud ring sentenced“When I read the press release, my eyes immediately went to Desmond Nkwenya, as I already knew that name from a larger case in the Northern District of Georgia that had been publicized as “10 people charged with business email compromise and money laundering schemes targeting Medicare, Medicaid and others“.
When VoyageATL magazine interviewed Desmond Nkwenya the story was about the young Cameroonian man who was performing in Atlanta under his label “Danyvails Entertainment”. But since 2016, Nkwenya was actually succeeding in another sector: creating fake driving licenses to enable a multitude of frauds and romance scams.
Anyone using the presentation of a driver’s license as proof of identity theft should understand how simple it is to purchase a D/L online with the photo, name and address of the chosen buyer .
In the new case, Brianna Mills, a 28-year-old bank teller in Loganville, Georgia, allegedly passed her banking information to her boyfriend Stanley Desirade, of Lanham, Maryland. Desirade allegedly used the customer’s information to order driving licenses from 37-year-old Desmond Nkwenya. Desirade then handed the driver’s licenses to Terrell Hale, of Rockville, Maryland, who had provided Desirade with photographs of his walk-in crew. The data of at least 25 customers was used to create at least 100 fake identity documents that were then used to steal $660,082 from the bank’s customers. They also attempted to steal an additional $1,008,134, but these additional transactions were declined. Désirade was sentenced to six years in prison on September 29, 2023. Mills was sentenced to 18 months in prison on August 25, 2023. Hale was sentenced to four years in prison on July 21, 2023.
On February 9, 2024, Nkwenya was sentenced to 30 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $325,080.
Nkwenya began advertising his ability to create counterfeit driver’s licenses in 2016 or earlier. Desirade actually found him through an ad he placed on Craigslist (using another alias). Nkwenya wasn’t just creating counterfeit driving licenses. He was also able to create Mastercard debit cards that appeared to have been issued by the agency where Brianna Mills worked.
That other case, which included defendants in South Carolina and Georgia, involved the theft of $4.7 million from Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurers, and $6.4 million from individuals and individuals, in various business email compromise and romance scam scenarios. Desmond’s main role in this case was also to create identity documents for use in various frauds.
Desmond Anu Nkwenya of Brookehaven, Georgia, was arrested in Texas in connection with his first BEC/fake ID case on November 17, 2022. In that earlier case, Nkwenya opened shell companies in Georgia under the names from JBS Commercial LLC, Raissen Group LLC and Danyvails Entertainment LLC. He then opened bank accounts at Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank and PNC Bank using fake driver’s licenses, including one in the name of Jada Kingston and a Georgia driver’s license in the name of Harold Ball . In one BEC case example, $2,328,842 was stolen from the victim by tricking them into sending funds to the wrong accounts. $308,650 of these funds were deposited into one of Nkwenya’s Wells Fargo accounts, followed by an additional $57,000 on July 1, 2021, and an additional $25,000 on July 12, 2021. Desmond also ensured that his fake ‘Danyvails Entertainment’ account receives $47,950 PPP loan after claiming to have nine employees. He also received a $119,875 PPP loan for another company and its imaginary employees.
Biliamin Fagbewesa of South Carolina – used a stolen identity to open bank accounts in the name of his shell company, Matadam Medical Equipments, and received $1.4 million in Medicaid proceeds. He had a Delaware driver’s license with his likeness and stolen identity information that he used to open accounts at First Citizens, Truist, Wells Fargo and TD Bank, and used those accounts to receive funds from both Medicaid Fraud and Business Email Compromise Funds.
Patrick Ndong-Bike of Atlanta, Georgia – used fake Tennessee driver’s licenses in the names and contact information of John Arino, Kendrick Odom and Michael Pulliam, but in his likeness, to open shell companies and then bank accounts for these companies at Regions Bank. , Bank of America, Wells Fargo Bank, JPMorgan Chase Bank and Truist. He used these accounts to receive at least $2,400,000 from multiple victims of Medicare fraud and Business Email Compromise. These included a BEC scheme against an Ohio hospital, in which a Medicare payment of $754,136 was redirected to Ndong-Bike’s accounts.
Cory Smith of Atlanta, Georgia – opened bank accounts using false identities and received and laundered at least $57,000 in funds from a BEC scheme against a private company.
Chisom Okonkwo of Atlanta, Georgia – received at least $830,000 in BEC fraud schemes, withdrawing at least $535,000 and laundering it through various methods, and purchasing a luxury automobile with part funds. Okonkwo was sentenced on January 24, 2024 to 3 years in prison and ordered to pay $478,538 in restitution. She created aliases under the names Patrician Young, Desirey Aguilar, Stacy Jack, Lisa Larkin and Janice Peck, and stole the identities of two real people from New Jersey and California and used fake driver’s licenses to gain access to their accounts. In one case, she provided the New Jersey victim’s name, date of birth, social security number and a driver’s license using her image but the victim’s data, in order to purchase a Mercedes Benz d worth $51,562 after acquiring credit in his victim’s name. She did the same with another victim of identity theft, acquiring a lease on a Roxboro, Georgia, hotel in the California resident’s name. She lived in the building using the stolen identity from NOV 28, 2020 to MAY 23, 2022 before abandoning the apartment due to $15,246 in arrears in rent and fees. She created several shell companies, based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, including A()Jewelry and Crystals, Young Interior Design and Larkin Interior Innovation and opened a bank account in the names of her aliases and companies at Truist, SunTrust and Regions Bank. These accounts were used to receive funds from several BEC victims, including from an automobile company in Texas whose payments were diverted to Okonkwo’s accounts on three occasions for $268,868, $100,000 and $45,000 . Okonkwo also applied for and received Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the Small Business Administration, saying his company, Larkin Interior Innovation, had five employees and gross sales of $150,000, which was not TRUE.
Olugbenga Abu of Atlanta, Georgia, used false identities, including under the name “Kingsley Perete,” to open bank accounts that received $95,000 in proceeds from the BEC fraud. Also received $341,000 in home mortgage loan based on blatantly false information and false documents, including false W-2 documents and false bank statements. Abu was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $105,500 in restitution.
Trion Thomas of Stone Mountain, Georgia – used false identities to open bank accounts that were used to receive $93,000 in Medicare payments that were diverted as part of a BEC fraud scheme.
Malachi Mullings of Sandy Springs, Georgia – used false identities to create companies and open bank accounts that were used to receive and launder millions of dollars from the BEC and Romance Scam schemes, including the BEC schemes against two schemes State Medicaid. In one situation, a romance scam victim sent a $200,000 cashier’s check to Mullings that was then used as part of payment for a 2017 Ferrari 488 Spider that Mullings purchased in Atlanta. Another romance scam victim sent payments of $28,369, $12,000, $20,000, $15,000, $30,000 and $17,000 to Mullings.
Adewale Adesanya of Jonesboro, Georgia – used false identities, including a fake Nigerian passport in the name “Timi Graig”, to open a shell company, Blue Springs, and then to open bank accounts at Bank of America, BBVA, JPMorgan Chase , Wells Fargo, Truist (then BB/T), Regions Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union. These accounts were used to receive funds from BEC scams, including Medicaid and Medicare scams, as well as funds from romance scam victims. He was ultimately sentenced to 48 months in prison and ordered to pay $1,582,510 in restitution. He used part of these funds to purchase two Lexus LX 570s and a Mercedes GLE 350.
Savior Blanchard of Richmond, Virginia – used false identities to create multiple shell companies to receive funds stolen from Medicaid programs through BEC programs. Mr. Blanchard was acquitted of all charges by Judge Robert Payne on August 10, 2023, and I can’t wait to read the transcripts to understand why!