FARGO, N.D. (AP) – A man, Adekunle Adetiloye, convicted of stealing thousands of American identities in a massive credit card fraud scheme is now on trial over one more identity – his own.
Prosecutors say they learned after Adekunle Adetiloye was sentenced in 2012 that he had created a fictional version of himself and used that to successfully argue for a lesser sentence. They say his real name is Michael Adeyemo.
Adetiloye was ordered to serve 18 years in prison in the case, which wound up in North Dakota because U.S. Bank, one of the victims, is based in Fargo. His attorney argued during sentencing that Adetiloye was naively sucked into the scheme after he moved from his native Nigeria to Canada; the attorney said Adetiloye was ignorant of United States culture because he had never lived there.
Prosecutors say they later discovered that Michael Adeyemo lived in the U.S. for a dozen years beginning in 1989, worked for the U.S. Postal Service for three years and had been accepted into two American law schools based on a law degree in Nigeria. He allegedly left for Canada after he was indicted in California in 2001 for a fraud scheme involving identity theft and illegal access devices.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Chase said in court documents that Adeyemo “designed and executed his deception so that he could pose as a more sympathetic person” at sentencing, including keeping the pending California charges under wraps. Chase said the defendant lied about his age and portrayed himself as a “much younger and less sophisticated criminal.”
Adeyemo is charged with four counts of obstruction of justice. He faces an additional 10 years in prison on top of the original sentence, which he is serving in Oakdale, Louisiana.
Ronald Hettich, the defendant’s lawyer, said in court documents that prosecutors are retrying the original case, which constitutes double jeopardy or trying someone twice for the same crime.
“More than anything else, this case is about the government wanting a second bite at the apple,” Hettich wrote. “The prosecutor, unhappy with the sentence Judge Erickson imposed, had to search for new charges in order to obtain the length of the season he wanted in the underlying case.”
Hettich said both Adekunle Adetiloye and Michael Adeyemo were names given to the defendant “in his Nigerian culture” and he has never made a false statement regarding his name.
Investigators say the fraud case was one of the largest credit card schemes in U.S. history and that Adetiloye was the mastermind behind a plot to steal the identities of 38,000 people and bilk dozens of banks out of millions of dollars. After lawyers argued for a couple of years over the amount of losses, a federal judge ordered Adekunle Adetiloye to pay about $1.5 million in restitution and forfeiture.
Adetiloye was convicted of incorporating two different companies that claimed to be debt collection companies. He gained access to commercial data providers – including large-scale outfits LexisNexis and ChoicePoint – that only allow access to law enforcement, financial services and debt collection companies.
Prosecutors described it as high-tech bank robbery.
Adetiloye became a suspect when authorities tried to find out how someone who was unemployed and receiving welfare was living lavishly, complete with a Range Rover vehicle, extended trips to England and an expensive condominium.