A 38-year-old Nigerian man, Olanrewaju A. Beyioku who was arrested for defrauding the American Red Cross by claiming he was a Hurricane Harvey victim, was on Thursday charged before a U.S. District Court.
The Nigerian man who was accused of wire fraud, reportedly cashed $3,600 in federal disaster relief vouchers provided by the Red Cross in October 2017. The Red Cross had set up a link on its website, where hurricane victims could apply for a one-time $400 cash assistance payment that could be redeemed with a reference code at a Walmart money center or customer service desk, according to the complaint.
After the codes were distributed in September 2017, Red Cross “received multiple calls reporting that people who were not hurricane victims were cashing in multiple reference codes at various Walmart stores across the United States.”
“The total loss to the Red Cross is over $1.3 million,” the complaint states.
The Walmart in the 7800 block of Cabela Drive in Hammond had 81 fraudulent transactions totaling $32,400 between Oct. 12 and Oct. 16, 2017, according to the complaint. Nine of those transactions, amounting to $3,600, were made between Oct. 12 and Oct. 13, 2017, by Beyioku, it states. All of the reference codes that were redeemed by Beyioku were sent to variations of the same email address, court records state.
“Beyioku was not the intended recipient of any of the disaster relief reference codes,” the complaint states. “In fact, the Red Cross allotted each household affected by Hurricane Harvey only one reference code.”
After an investigation, federal authorities determined 9 of the transaction were conducted by Beyioku. He was identified in a photo array by a clerk at Walmart. Authorities also traced the ill-gotten money back to his bank accounts.