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U.S. v. UZOR

April 30, 2003

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, AGAINST MICHAEL UZOR, DEFENDANT


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert W. Sweet, United States District Judge

SENTENCING OPINION

On January 24, 2003, Michael Uzor ("Uzor") pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and one count of wire fraud in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1344.

The Offense Conduct

The instant offense was uncovered by special agents of the United States Secret Service during the investigation of an advance fee payment scheme. These schemes typically involve a promise of a large payment in return for payments of smaller fees that must be paid by a victim in advance of receiving the large payment. Advance fee payment schemes often involve the exchange between the perpetrator and the victim of numerous business documents prior to the delivery of the advance payment. The exchange of business documents is intended to create the false impression that the transaction will be executed as promised.

On October 5, 2002, an attorney for an individual later identified as the victim of such an advance fee scheme (the "Victim"), contacted the U.S. Secret Service regarding certain transactions that the lawyer believed to be fraudulent, in which the Victim had wired about $18,000 to a Taiwanese bank account at the direction of "Dr. Usman Bello," a purported member of the "Federal Ministry of Finance" of the Republic of Nigeria. The Victim had been promised that in return for the $18,000 plus an additional cash payment of $8,000, she would receive $21.5 million from the Nigerian government to invest in oil concerns in the United States. The Victim never received the money. The Victim provided agents investigating the matter with paperwork concerning these transactions which was evidence of it being an advance payment scheme.

In mid-June 2002, the Victim, who was then located in Sante Fe, New Mexico, received a letter from a purported official of the Nigerian government purportedly named "Dr. Usman Bello" ("Dr. Bello"). Dr. Bello was seeking to invest a fund of approximately $21.5 million in ventures in the United States on behalf of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Finance. The letter promised that in exchange for a modest investment, the recipient would receive $21.5 million to invest in ventures in the United States.

Beginning on June 18, 2002, the Victim and Dr. Bello engaged in multiple phone conversations and exchanged faxed correspondence concerning payments that Dr. Bello wanted the Victim to make. From the period of mid-June 2002 to October 3, 2002, the Victim wired payments totaling approximately $18,000 into bank accounts in Nigeria and Taiwan at the direction of Dr. Bello. In late September 2002, an individual calling himself Dr. Grey Amu ("Dr. Amu") called the Victim on behalf of Dr. Bello. Dr. Amu was allegedly in charge of the Nigerian fund to be distributed. Dr. Amu asked the Victim for a final cash payment of $8,000, which he said was required to be exchanged in person at a meeting in New York during the week of October 7, 2002.

After receiving the request for the final $8,000 payment, the Victim approached her attorney in Sante Fe, New Mexico, for legal advice and a loan of travel expenses and $8,000 for the final payment. She also requested that her attorney accompany her on the trip to New York.

On October 5, 2002, the Victim's attorney became suspicious of the proposed transaction and contacted the U.S. Secret Service in New York.

On October 7, 2002, the agent arranged for the Victim and the Victim's attorney to place a phone call from the attorney's office in Sante Fe, New Mexico to Dr. Amu and to record that call. During the call, the Victim and the Victim's attorney initially established with Dr. Amu that a meeting would take place between the Victim's attorney and Dr. Amu in New York. Later in the conversation, Dr. Amu raised the amount of the final payment from $8,000 to $8,950 and ended the call by canceling the meeting in New York.

On October 8, 2002, the agent placed three calls to Dr. Amu, posing as the Victim's attorney. During the calls, the agent persuaded Dr. Amu to reschedule the meeting for October 10, 2002 in New York.

On October 9, 2002, an undercover Secret Service agent posing as the Victim's attorney ("UC-1") called Dr. Amu to confirm the meeting on October 10, 2002.

On October 10, 2002, at about 1:15 p.m., Uzor met with UC-1 at a McDonald's restaurant in the vicinity of 34th Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan. He identified himself to UC-1 as Dr. Amu. Prior to the meeting, UC-1 was equipped with a concealed audio transmitter. In addition, the he had in his possession $8,950 in counterfeit U.S. currency provided for the meeting by the Secret Service. Law enforcement officers conducted surveillance of the meeting between UC-1 and Uzor.

During the course of the meeting between UC-1 and Uzor, Uzor apologized to UC-1 that Dr. Bello would not be able to meet him in New York on the following day as planned because Dr. Bello was purportedly detained in Nigeria. Uzor also called another individual from a cell phone and asked him to come to the McDonalds where he was meeting with UC-1. Shortly thereafter, that individual, later identified as co-defendant Hilary Okehi ("Okehi"), came into the ...


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