HARRISBURG, PA — The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced that Omoyoma Christopher Okoro, age 49, of North Carolina, was found guilty of all charges against him following a five-day jury trial that concluded on September 15, 2023. The indictment charged Okoro with conspiracy to commit wire fraud affecting a financial institution, mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and bank fraud. In addition, Okoro was charged with two counts of wire fraud affecting a financial institution, one count of mail fraud affecting a financial institution, and one count of bank fraud.
According to United States Attorney Gerard M. Karam, Okoro, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Nigerian origin, resided in Nigeria before moving to the United States around 2013. Between 2006 and 2010, Okoro, along with other unnamed coconspirators, conspired to defraud attorneys located in the United States through what became known as the “attorney collection scheme.” Through this scheme, attorneys in the United States were contacted by a prospective “client” in a foreign country who purported to be in need of legal representation. The client would typically claim to be owed money from someone in the United States resulting from a business transaction, settlement from a dispute, or an accident. If the attorney responded to the initial inquiry, the attorney would then be told that the other party had agreed to settle the matter and was prepared to make a payment. Soon after that, the attorney would receive a counterfeit “official check” supposedly issued by a U.S. bank in the mail. The attorney was directed by the client to deposit the check into his or her law firm escrow account, keep a portion of the funds as payment for services, and wire the balance to a foreign bank account, typically located in an East Asian country. Once the funds reached the foreign bank account, they were immediately withdrawn by a member of the conspiracy, generally before the attorney victim realized that he or she had been defrauded. The attorney and the attorney’s bank would then be left responsible for the loss once they realized that the official check was counterfeit.
The evidence at trial showed Okoro communicating with numerous other members of the conspiracy, including individuals responsible for furnishing the financial accounts in East Asia used to receive victim funds, as well as individuals who appeared to be in contact with attorney victims. On numerous occasions, Okoro was either the sender or recipient of emails confirming that an attorney victim had wired funds to a foreign bank account. In addition, evidence at trial showed funds flowing back to Okoro from coconspirators located in the area of Toronto, Canada, where several key members of the conspiracy resided.
In total, it is believed that over $20 million in fraudulent proceeds were actually obtained through the attorney collection scheme, and over $70 million in attempted fraud occurred. Okoro represents the latest defendant to be prosecuted in this district for his role in the attorney collection scheme. Prior defendants include Emmanuel Ekhator and Yvette Mathurin, previously residents of Canada and Nigeria, and Kingsley Osagie of Nigeria. They also include Henry Okpalefe, previously a resident of Toronto, Canada and Nigeria.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ravi Romel Sharma, Assistant U.S. Attorney David C. Williams, and U.S. Department of Justice Trial Attorney Shaunik R. Panse prosecuted the case and handled the case at trial. This case and other prior cases related to the attorney collection scheme were previously handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christy Fawcett, Kim Douglas Daniel, Chelsea Schinnour, and Paul J. Miovas, Jr.
The maximum penalty under federal law for each of the five charges against Okoro is 20 years of imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine.
A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.