First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler announced today that a Cleveland man was charged in a 16-count indictment with illegally obtaining more than $400,000 in pandemic unemployment insurance benefits using other people’s personal identifying information.
Osi Mokwunye, 44, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, five counts of mail fraud, five counts of wire fraud, and five counts of aggravated identity theft.
According to court documents, from July to November 2020, the defendant and his coconspirators are accused of submitting and causing the submission of fraudulent applications for pandemic unemployment insurance benefits to the California Employment Development Department (EDD), and other State Workforce Agencies around the country.
As part of the scheme, the indictment states that the members of the conspiracy knowingly made false statements and omissions on pandemic unemployment insurance benefits applications regarding employment history, residency and more to appear eligible to receive benefits. As a result, it is alleged that the defendant and his coconspirators caused the California EDD and other State Workforce Agencies to approve more than $400,000 in unemployment insurance benefits in the names of unwitting individuals. According to the indictment, the benefits were pre-loaded on bank-issued debit cards and sent through the U.S. mail to the defendant’s home. After receiving the debit cards, it is alleged that the defendant used the cards to make cash withdrawals at various ATMs in the Northern District of Ohio.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the court after a review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offenses and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases, the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum; in most cases, it will be less than the maximum.
The FBI Cleveland, Department of Labor (DOL) and the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) investigated this case. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Erica D. Barnhill.