Swindler gets 51 months for credit card, bank fraud Maryland scheme bilked more than $2 million

July 18, 1998|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

A member of a Maryland-based ring that bilked more than $2 million in a credit and identity fraud scheme was sentenced to 51 months in prison yesterday for money laundering, federal prosecutors said.

Christopher Omotunde, 31, formerly of Upper Marlboro, helped steal financial information from people around the United States and Canada and then swindled the victims by running up their credit card bills and looting their bank accounts.

The ring laundered the money and transferred it to banks in Nigeria, England, Korea and other countries, according to court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

At least six others in the ring have pleaded guilty, including the ringleader, Christopher Tizhe, who was sentenced in August to nearly 13 years in federal prison.

Prosecutors said Tizhe ruled the ring with an iron fist and was greatly feared because the other Nigerian nationals in his organization believed he was a master of African witchcraft, or "juju."

Tizhe claimed to others in the ring that the death of a woman who was planning to testify against him in a 1992 heroin case was the result of a spell he had cast on her.

The woman died of a brain tumor before she could testify, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Omotunde once called his mother in Nigeria and, in a conversation wiretapped by authorities, told her to contact a juju practitioner so he could cast spells on the three federal agents investigating the ring.

Omotunde also told her to cast a spell on former U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul M. Rosenberg, who had been assigned to early hearings on the case.

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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