Olanrewaju A. Beyioku

Gary man indicted for disaster relief fraud

Contributed By:The 411 News

Accused of illegally claiming federal Hurricane Harvey relief funds from Red Cross

Olanrewaju A. Beyioku, 38, a Gary, Indiana resident was charged in an indictment with wire fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Kirsch.

Beyioku was arrested on November 9th and released November 19th on a $20,000 bond. A grand jury returned a true bill for indictment December 20. Beyioku is scheduled for a January 2019 trial.

U.S. Attorney Kirsch said, “At a time when individuals were going through some of the worst times in their lives, Mr. Beyioku seized the opportunity to enrich himself with hurricane relief funds meant for those who lost homes and businesses. My office and our law enforcement partners will continue to investigate those who defraud the government for personal gain.”

The Indictment alleges that, in September and October 2017, Beyioku, a.k.a. “Papa Smith Morgan,” working in conjunction with others, known and unknown to the United States Attorney, devised a scheme to defraud the American Red Cross (“Red Cross”) by obtaining reference codes intended for nine different households directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and by using those codes to obtain $3,600 in hurricane relief funds.

According to the Indictment, on August 25, 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck the Houston, Texas area causing extensive damage. President Donald J. Trump declared it a federal disaster area that same day, which made federal disaster relief funds available to those affected by the storm.

One type of federal disaster relief was a one-time cash payment of $400 through the Red Cross. The Red Cross established a link on their website where hurricane victims could apply for the cash assistance. Hurricane victims used their email addresses to apply. They entered personally identifiable information, including their address. If the address fell within a designated disaster area, The Red Cross forwarded the application electronically to an entity referred to herein as “Company A.”

Company A vetted the information, and electronically forwarded it to “Company B.” Company B then created an eleven-digit alphanumeric code. The code was then sent to the applicant with instructions to redeem the code at a Wal-Mart Money Center or Customer Service Desk.

In early September 2017, The Red Cross received reports of ineligible people redeeming multiple reference codes at various Wal-Mart stores across the United States. The Red Cross reported this to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (“NCDF”). With assistance from Wal-Mart Global Security Investigators, The Red Cross identified over 3,300 instances of fraudulently obtained reference codes. The loss to The Red Cross is more than $1.3 million dollars.

Story Posted:12/21/2018

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