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U.S. Attorney Announces Charges Against 11 Members Of Money Laundering And Bank Fraud Ring

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Over 50 Victims Sent More Than $9 Million to Defendants as a Result of Online Fraud Schemes

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Ten defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, KAZEEM RAHEEM, 29, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWALE OLANIYAN, 41, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Nine defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, SMART AGUNBIADE, 28, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  One defendant – MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39 –

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Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Patrick J. Freaney, the Special Agent-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Secret Service (“Secret Service”), announced today the unsealing of an Indictment charging 11 defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, and aggravated identity theft, in connection with their involvement in laundering millions of dollars in proceeds derived from business email compromises and romance fraud schemes.  Nine defendants were arrested today in the District of New Jersey and the Eastern District of New York, and will be presented this afternoon before United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn in the Southern District of New York.  One defendant was arrested in the Southern District of Texas, and will be presented today in that district’s federal court.  One defendant remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said: “As alleged, the defendants were part of a criminal enterprise that not only defrauded businesses by assuming the online identities of legitimate counterparties, but also preyed on vulnerable elderly people, deceiving victims into sending money in phony romance scams.  Thanks to the Secret Service, the defendants are now facing federal felony charges.”

Secret Service Special Agent-in-Charge Patrick J. Freaney said: “As the continued threat posed by cyber enabled fraud remains ever present, the U.S. Secret Service remains steadfast in its pursuit of those who threaten our collective financial security. This case is no exception, as the defendants allegedly utilized a myriad of fraud schemes, to include romance scams and business email compromises, to defraud over 50 victims in excess of $9 million. Due to the efforts of the Secret Service and our partners at the New York City Police Department Financial Crimes Task Force, this organized group will no longer be able to operate its alleged scheme to defraud and will answer the charges brought against them in the Southern District of New York.”

As alleged in the Indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court[1]:

ADEDAYO JOHN, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, KAZEEM RAHEEM, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” SMART AGUNBIADE, LATEEF GOLOBA, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, OLAWALE OLANIYAN, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI (collectively, the “Defendants”) participated in one or both of a money laundering conspiracy and bank fraud conspiracy, which received funds stolen from victims.

Victims were typically defrauded in one of two ways.  In some instances, business email compromise fraud schemes were used to trick businesses into transferring funds to bank accounts the victims believed were under the control of legitimate recipients of the funds as part of normal business operations, when in fact the bank accounts were under the control of the Defendants or their co-conspirators.  In other instances, romance scams were used, primarily through electronic messages sent via email, text messaging, social media, or online dating websites, to deceive victims – many of whom were vulnerable older men and women – into believing they were in romantic relationships with fake identities, and then using false pretenses to cause the victims to transfer funds to bank accounts controlled by the Defendants or their co-conspirators.

As a result of these frauds, law enforcement officers have identified more than 50 victims who have transferred more than $9 million to bank accounts under the control of the Defendants.

Ten defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, KAZEEM RAHEEM, 29, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWALE OLANIYAN, 41, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.  Nine defendants – ADEDAYO JOHN, 32, SMART AGUNBIADE, 28, OLUWADAMILOLA AKINPELU, 26, MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39, WARRIS ADENUGA, a/k/a “Blue,” 26, LATEEF GOLOBA, 27, SAMSONDEEN GOLOBA, 29, OLAWOYIN PETER OLAREWAJU, 34, and EMMANUEL ORONSAYE-AJAYI, 30 – are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.  One defendant – MORAKINYO GBEYIDE, 39 – is also charged with one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of two years in prison.  The maximum potential penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendants would be determined by a judge.

Mr. Williams praised the outstanding investigative work of the Secret Service.  The case is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit.  Assistant United States Attorneys Kaylan E. Lasky and Matthew Weinberg are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely allegations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

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COVOD-19

U.S. issues ‘Do Not Travel’ advisory for eight African countries

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department on Saturday advised against travel to eight southern African countries after the White House announced new travel restrictions in response to a new COVID-19 variant.

The CDC raised its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Eswatini and Botswana while the State Department issued parallel “Do Not Travel” advisories Saturday. On Monday, the CDC had lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory for South Africa to “Level 1: Low” from “Level 3: High”

Of the eight countries, only Botswana was previously listed as “Level 4.”

Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is potentially more contagious than previous variants of the disease, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains. It could take weeks for scientists to fully understand the variant’s mutations and whether existing vaccines and treatments are effective against it.

The discovery of the variant has sparked global concern, a wave of travel bans or curbs and a sell-off on financial markets on Friday as investors worried that Omicron could stall a global recovery from the nearly two-year pandemic.

The new variant prompted the White House to announce Friday it would bar nearly all foreign nationals who have been in any of eight countries within the last 14 days from flying to the United States effective Monday at 12:01 a.m. ET (0500 GMT). Travelers on flights that depart before that time will be allowed to land in the United States. But foreign nationals must be vaccinated and have tested negative within three days.

Britain detected two cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on Saturday, even as Australia and other countries joined nations imposing restrictions on travel from southern Africa in an effort to stop its spread.

The variant was first discovered in South Africa and had also since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.

A U.S. official told Reuters Friday the Biden administration could also add other countries to the travel curb list if the variant spreads. The United States only lifted travel restrictions on South Africa and 32 other countries on Nov. 8.

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COVOD-19

New York Declares State Of Emergency To Hike Hospital Capacity Ahead Of Omicron Variant

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Friday declared a state of emergency aimed at increasing hospital capacity and addressing medical staffing shortages as the nation braces for the new omicron variant of the coronavirus.

The new protocols will take effect Dec. 3 and the order will remain in place at least until Jan. 15, when it will be reassessed.

The emergency declaration will allow the state Department of Health to limit nonessential and nonurgent hospital procedures in situations where a hospital has less than 10% staffed bed capacity.

The order will also expand state purchasing capability to obtain emergency medical supplies.

“We’ve taken extraordinary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and combat this pandemic. However, we continue to see warning signs of spikes this upcoming winter, and while the new Omicron variant has yet to be detected in New York State, it’s coming,” Hochul said.

“In preparation, I am announcing urgent steps today to expand hospital capacity and help ensure our hospital systems can tackle any challenges posed by the pandemic as we head into the winter months,” the governor said.

“The vaccine remains one of our greatest weapons in fighting the pandemic. I encourage every New Yorker to get vaccinated, and get the booster if you’re fully vaccinated,” she added.

President Joe Biden announced Friday that travel to the U.S. from South Africa and seven other countries in the region would be restricted beginning Monday.

The World Health Organization announced Friday that the highly transmissible omicron variant has a “large number of mutations,” including some that are “concerning.”

It has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi, Israel and Hong Kong. The first European case has been identified in Belgium.

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Health

Doctor Suspended by Houston Methodist for Spreading COVID Misinformation Resigns

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Houston-based doctor on Monday resigned her privileges at Houston Methodist Hospital after the hospital temporarily suspended her for spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Dr. Mary Talley Bowden, an ear, nose and throat specialist in private practice, was granted provisional privileges at the Texas Medical Center hospital within the last year. She had never admitted a patient before Friday, when the hospital temporarily pulled those privileges for unprofessional behavior, including spreading “dangerous misinformation” about COVID-19 and using vulgar language on social media, the hospital said.

Bowden’s resignation comes days after Houston Methodist suspended the doctor’s hospital privileges and accused her of “using her social media accounts to express her personal and political opinions about the COVID-19 vaccine and treatments.”

Bowden claims she has treated more than 2,000 patients with COVID-19 and has been outspoken on social media recently about vaccine mandates and treatments.

Through a public release, here is how Bowden responded:   

“I do not want to be part of an institution that treats its doctors the way they do,” said Bowden. “They have tried to paint me as dangerous simply because my views may be different than theirs about the efficacy of vaccines and possible treatment decisions. That is what is dangerous. I want the best for my patients. I do not believe the vaccine is a one size fits all solution, nor do I believe unvaccinated Houstonians should be treated by medical doctors as second-class citizens, but to the government and Methodist Hospital it’s one size fits all no matter what. If you voice any concerns then you are attacked, you are bullied. If you don’t follow government orders, you are the one they now call dangerous. That’s China. That’s not America. I don’t feel like we are in America when we start attacking doctors who are simply trying to look out for what they believe is in the best interest of their patients. We are treating unvaccinated people like they don’t deserve our help. Every day we are still learning about COVID and these vaccines. I will not be silenced for giving my advice. I took an oath.”

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