The total estimated fraud in all Covid relief funds amounts is to a mind-boggling sum of $579 billion in federal funds. Stolen from the U.S. taxpayer. An already weak system of unemployment verification system combined with orders by the federal government to loosen any and all restrictions on access to COVID relief funds, became a fraudster’s fantasy playland. But it wasn’t only U.S. citizens that defrauded the pandemic aid. It was easy money for internationals too. Like Oluwatobi Seton, a Nigerian citizen. Seton conspired with family and friends in Nigeria to obtain unemployment and other benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic from state and federal governments by falsely applying for such benefits using the stolen identities of others. It’s not too hard for a foreigner to impersonate a jobless American when millions of stolen identities are for sale in bulk in the dark corners of the internet.
Upon obtaining the stolen personal identifiable information of their victims, Seton would first open up GoBank accounts to obtain debit cards. Seton and her conspirators then submitted false and fraudulent employment applications to unemployment agencies throughout the United States in the victims’ names and had the stolen benefit funds deposited into their fraudulent GoBank accounts. Seton obtained fake driver’s licenses in the victims’ names to ensure access to the proceeds of the fraud scheme. A quick road trip to the local ATM, with the license in hand, and over $5.5 million in COVID-19 unemployment funds were stolen by Seton. At the time of her arrest, Seton had over 1,400 GoBank cards and ten driver’s licenses with different names in her possession.
Great job by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in this case. One August 11, 2023, Judge Pratt ordered Seton to five years in prison. Judge Pratt also ordered that Seton pay restitution in the amount of $4,309,027.00 and be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 1 year following her release from federal prison. Hopefully that will be in Nigeria.
Today’s Fraud of The Day is based on article “Bloomington woman sentenced to federal prison for $5.5 million COVID benefit scam” published by WTHR Indiana News on August 11, 2023
A Bloomington woman has been sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for her involvement in a $5.5 million international COVID fraud scheme. Oluwatobi Seton, 28, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to court documents, Seton, along with co-conspirators based in Nigeria, obtained unemployment and other benefits during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Seton and her co-conspirators defrauded state and federal governments by falsely applying for benefits using stolen identities.