Three men who remain at large were charged in a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Friday that combines identity theft and online credit card theft with African religious rituals – and there’s San Diego victims.
Henry Addo, 34, Edmund Seshie, 42, and Abdul Rezak Shaib, 28, were charged with conspiracy, mail and wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with an international auto theft ring in which the defendants purchased U.S. vehicles using stolen identities and credit card numbers.
They then shipped the cars to Ghana for resale before victims became aware of the fraud.
According to the indictment, the defendants were involved in the fraudulent acquisition of more than 43 vehicles worth more than $500,000. The charges are the result of a two-year investigation by the FBI in San Diego.
The indictment details one such fraudulent purchase that occurred in San Diego and led the dealership to contact the FBI.
“This case is notable in terms of its level of sophistication, its audacious methods and the callous disregard for victims,” U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy said. “These charges are the first strike back on behalf of identity theft victims who now have to reclaim their good names – a frustrating task that can take years. We will continue to make these cases a priority.”
All three defendants also are alleged to have been involved with “Sakawa,” a Ghanaian practice that combines modern Internet frauds targeting foreigners with traditional African religious rituals.
Vice.com reports that the practice started when “traditional West African Juju priests adapted their services to the needs of the information age and started leading down-on-their-luck internet scammers through strange and costly rituals” purported to increase their likelihood of successfully conning victims.
According to San Diego authorities, Addo directed this particular scheme from Internet cafes in Ghana and used his U.S.-based co-conspirators, Seshie and Rezak Shaib, to do his bidding stateside.
According to the indictment, the defendants took these steps:
- Purchased stolen credit cards and matching counterfeit driver’s licenses in bulk from a Singapore-based merchant called a “carder,” which, via the Web, buy, sell and trade credit card data stolen from phishing sites or retail stores.
- Used the identities to fraudulently purchase vehicles, mostly Toyota Camrys and Toyotas, from U.S.-based car dealerships, though they also bought Mercedes Benz C-Class sedans.
- Placed international phone calls from Ghana to U.S. car dealers, assuming the identity of stolen credit card holders during sales negotiations. Addo allegedly made the calls, using a series of email accounts to send the fraudulent personal information to the dealers.
- Paid for the cars and for their delivery to ports with the stolen credit cards.
Once multiple vehicles were accumulated at a particular staging location, a big rig transported them in cargo containers to a New Jersey port for export to Ghana, on the west central coast of Africa.
The cars were then sold for a profit by the criminal organization, according to the indictment.
– City News Service
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