Woburn Newspaper Deliveryman Arraigned On Charges of Stealing Customer Identities and Forging More Than $200k In Counterfeit Checks
For Immediate Release March 12, 2013
Contact: Press Office
WOBURN – A Reading man has been arraigned on charges of identity fraud, forgery and larceny totaling more than $200,000, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone informed the public today.
Ikponmwosa Ogiugo, 22, of Reading, has been arraigned in Woburn District Court on charges of identity fraud (12 counts), forgery (23 counts), larceny over $250 (5 counts), and larceny over $250 by check. Fearing that the defendant, a native of Nigeria, posed a flight risk, the Commonwealth requested a $500,000 cash bail. Woburn District Court Judge Catherine Byrne ordered the defendant held on $5,000 cash bail with conditions that he surrender his passport, and that if he posts bail he remain under house arrest with a monitoring bracelet.
The defendant’s next court date in Woburn District Court is April 10 for a pretrial conference.
“These are very concerning allegations, where a person used his position of trust with long-term newspaper delivery customers, many of them elderly, to gain access to their personal information and then manipulated that information to gain a monetary benefit for himself,” District Attorney Leone said. “The elderly are our most deserving population and we are dedicated to fully prosecuting this troubling case.”
Authorities began an investigation in December 2012 after receiving complaints from some of the defendant’s customers in Woburn who noticed that unauthorized checks were being passed through their bank accounts. That investigation allegedly unveiled a complex forgery and larceny scheme wherein the defendant, who was employed during 2012 doing newspaper home delivery to residential customers, would garner personal and bank account information from those customers which he used to create counterfeit checks totaling more than $200,000.
Through their investigation, authorities learned that the defendant encouraged and received gratuities for his service, especially during the holiday season. At least 16 of his subscribers, most of them elderly, gave the defendant a “tip” for his service in the form of a check. The defendant, then, allegedly incorporated the bank routing information and the individual bank account numbers into new computer-generated blank checks.
Allegedly, the defendant would send the counterfeit checks to individuals residing outside of Massachusetts, where they would be deposited in accounts in New Jersey, New York, Florida, Alabama and Washington State. It is believed that some of the payees of the counterfeit checks were duped into believing the checks were legitimate and, at the defendant’s urging, deposited them in their own personal bank account and then forwarded the proceeds via Western Union to recipients, designated by the defendant, residing in India.
In several instances, when victims learned that unauthorized checks were being submitted against their account, they would close the existing account and open a new account. Unaware of the defendant’s alleged involvement at that time, they would then issue a substitute gratuity check to the defendant since the old account had been closed. In this way, the defendant was in a position to create, and did create, more and more new counterfeit checks.
The investigation remains ongoing. The case is being investigated by Woburn and Reading police and State Police assigned to the Middlesex District Attorney’s Office, with the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
Members of the public who may have information that could be helpful to the investigation can contact the Massachusetts State Police at 781-897-6600 or the Woburn Police Detectives’ unit at 781-933-1212.
These charges are allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The prosecutor assigned to handle these matters is Assistant District Attorney Doug Cannon.
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