Olalekan Jacob Ponle known as Woodberry, has pleaded guilty to a fraud charge at the US District Court for Northern Illinois.
Woodberry is an ally of Nigerian fraudster Ramon Olorunwa Abass known as Hushpuppi who was arrested along with him in Dubai in June 2020.
The gang was responsible for Dh1.6 billion (about N169 billion) in fraud involving over 1.9 million victims. Items worth N15.845 billion (Dh150 million) were also seized.
Woodberry pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud of defrauding a US company of about $188,000 during a change of plea hearing in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division.
He was required to repay the $8 million he fraudulently received from the seven companies that fell for his scam and forfeited luxury cars and watches to the US government.
US prosecutors said Ponle and his co-schemers “were engaged in a business email compromise scheme targeting Victim Company B and other companies which resulted in a fraudulent wire of approximately $188,191.50 to a bank account” starting from January 2019.
The judge, Robert Gettleman, in his ruling, accepted the defendant’s change of plea and set 11 July for sentencing after accepting the plea agreement Woodberry entered into with US prosecutors.
“Defendant understands that by pleading guilty, he will subject to forfeiture to the United States all right, title, and interest that he has in any property constituting or derived from proceeds obtained, directly or indirectly, as a result of the offence,” the court document said.
The judge also referred the case to the Probation Department for a pre-sentence investigation and report, which would guide his decision on the appropriate sentence to impose.
He gave the US government 60 days before the sentencing date to provide the Probation Office and the courtroom deputy with a list of victims and their full current contact information to obtain the court’s order of restitution.
“The list shall include any amounts subject to restitution. If the Government is not able to provide the full victim list 60 days before sentencing, they shall file a motion to request an extension of time to compile the information,” the judge added.