Most people who use the Internet for financial transactions, and that includes almost anyone with reliable Internet access, are careful to protect themselves from identity theft. Over the years, banks and businesses have gotten better at stopping fraudulent transactions before they begin, and potential identity thieves have to work harder and harder to get access to their victims’ money. For several years in the previous decade, Tobechi Onwuhara and his accomplices ran an elaborate operation that enabled them to obtain more than $40 million in home equity lines of credit borrowed in the names of homeowners whose identifying information they had managed to procure. After managing to evade the FBI for years, Onwuhara was finally apprehended in Australia in 2013. He is currently serving a 70-month prison term.
Tobechi Onwuhara and His Elaborate Scam
Tobechi Onwuhara was born in Nigeria in 1979 but moved to Texas as a child. While he was in his 20s and living in the Dallas area, he figured out a way to access the bank accounts of homeowners and to borrow home equity lines of credit in their names; he would then divert the borrowed funds to bank accounts overseas. An article in the Dallas News describes the labor-intensive process by which Onwuhara and his accomplices gathered information about their fraud victims; they would painstakingly search for information about the victims that was accessible online. When they had enough information to allow them to successfully impersonate the victims in over-the-phone applications for lines of credit, they would apply and borrow the money. Onwuhara used his talent for imitating voices to make himself sound just the way the lenders would expect the victim to speak. For example, nothing about his voice would indicate to a bank’s call center employee that she was speaking to anything other than a 60-year-old Caucasian Republican employee of the federal government. He could not, however, convincingly imitate female voices, so for those calls, he sought the help of his fiancée Precious Matthews or another female friend. In 2007 and the following years, Onwuhara lived ostentatiously between Dallas and South Florida, spending huge sums of money on jewelry and cars, as well as starting a legal business, namely a record label.
How the Authorities Caught Onwuhara
The beginning of the end was directly related to Onwuhara’s voice acting talents. Most of us do not think much of it when we call a bank and hear, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance ad training purposes,” but it ended up being Onwuhara’s undoing. Law enforcement was eventually able to match the voice with which Onwuhara impersonated a doctor to call in a prescription for himself at a pharmacy to the voice he used for some of the line of credit phone applications. In 2010, he narrowly escaped arrest, disappearing from a Florida casino minutes before police would have arrested him. He was eventually caught in Australia in 2013 and sentenced to 70 months in prison in the United States. The reason his sentence was not longer was that he cooperated with authorities, as many of his accomplices, who were arrested several years earlier, had done.
Contact Madrid Law About Identity Theft Cases
Mario Madrid is a Houston attorney with experience representing defendants accused of financial crimes. Contact Madrid Law in Houston for a consultation.