Philadelphia federal courthouse The James A. Byrne Courthouse, site of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Jeffrey M. Vinocur/Wikipedia.

 

Federal authorities in Philadelphia on Monday sentenced Adebowale Ayodeji Owoaje, 31, to 24 months in prison for his role in a Craigslist wire fraud scheme.

 

Owoaje – who officials said swindled his U.S.-based targets out of more than $100,000 between January 2005 and February 2010 – was also ordered to pay $193,175.86 in restitution and a $400 special assessment.

 

A grand jury indicted Owoaje, of Nigeria, last March, and he was arrested when he came to the U.S. on a student visa.

 

He pleaded guilty on Jan. 15 to wire fraud.

How the scam worked

Officials said when Owoaje lived overseas, he responded to Craigslist classified posts advertising items for sale or seeking a job.

Using various aliases, Owoaje would reach an agreement on a sale price or employment terms.

He sent counterfeit cashier's checks to co-conspirators – many of them in the Philadelphia area – with instructions to fill them out in amounts exceeding the agreed-on price.

After unwitting Craigslist posters received the overpayment, Owoaje would tell them the wrong amount had been sent by "mistake."

He'd ask them to deposit the check in their bank account and keep the amount he owed them, plus an additional sum for their trouble.

Owoaje then asked the victims to wire the balance of the money he'd overpaid through Western Union to a Philadelphia-area co-conspirator – who he'd falsely refer to as his "secretary" or "shipping agent."

Authorities said only after wiring the money did the targets learn the cashier's checks they'd received from Owoaje were counterfeit and any money they sent him would go uncompensated.