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Two “money mules” who defrauded victims in Iowa and across country sent to prison


This news story was published on August 19, 2019.
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Federal courthouse, Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS – Two Georgia residents who participated as “money mules” in a scheme to defraud victims across the country out of more than $300,000 were each sentenced to federal prison.

Ikenna Orakwelu, age 33, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Nigeria, and Schylundye Thomas, age 27, both currently living in Atlanta, Georgia, received the prison terms after previous guilty pleas to wire fraud.

In a plea agreement, Orakwelu admitted that from August 2015 through June 2016, he participated in a scheme to defraud businesses and individuals across the country.  Orakwelu admitted that he or his wife, who he admitted he recruited and directed in the scheme, controlled multiple bank accounts and that other participates of the scheme lied to businesses and individuals to get the victims to transfer money to these bank accounts.  In total, more than $150,000 in fraudulent money was wired into Orakwelu’s bank accounts, though some of the money was recovered by authorities.

Thomas did not know Orakwelu but participated in the same scheme to defraud by also controlling bank accounts into which victims of fraud wired money.  Victims from Iowa, Utah, Idaho, and other states all wired money into Thomas’s bank accounts.  Overall, more than $290,000 was wired into Thomas’s accounts.

Orakwelu and Thomas were sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Orakwelu was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.  He was ordered to make $25,000 in restitution the victims of the scheme.  He must also serve a two-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  Thomas was sentenced to 9 months’ imprisonment.  She was ordered to make $237,388.12 in restitution the victims of the scheme.  She must also serve a two-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Orakwelu was released on the bond previously set and is to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on a date yet to be.  Thomas remains in the custody of the United States Marshall.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Morfitt and investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Dubuque Police Department.

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