July 20, 2023: A United Arab Emirates resident and Nigerian citizen were sentenced to eight years in federal prison for staging a multimillion-dollar fraud conspiracy that victimized companies across the U.S., Illinois federal prosecutors said.
Olalekan Jacob Ponle was expelled from the UAE into the Federal Bureau of Investigation possession in July 2020, where he remained until pleading guilty to a single wire fraud count, the U.S. Department of Justice stated in a press release on Tuesday.
Ponle worked with a network of crooks to masquerade as corporate entities using phishing emails. The scammers duped employees into sending funds on behalf of their “employers,” who were crooks.
Ponle, better known as Woodberry, was a minor celebrity in his home country of Nigeria because of his extravagant displays of wealth on social media.
He depended on a network of “mules” to accept the funds and convert them into bitcoins he received. The Nigerian citizen used the proceeds of his scam to buy ultra-high-end vehicles, including a Rolls Royce Cullinan and a Lamborghini Urus.
Ponle will lose those items, collectively valued at over $1 million, and pay more than $8 million in restitution to victim companies. Ponle had already yielded 151 bitcoins, valued at over $4.5 million as of Wednesday.
He was prosecuted despite the lack of an extradition treaty amid the UAE and the United States. National DOJ’S Office of International Affairs officials worked with their UAE counterparties to ensure Ponle’s rendition.