Tobechi Onwuhara: The King Of Home Equity Fraud-CNN

Tobechi Onwuhara (right) at a Dallas nightclub with Ezenwa Onyedebelu.
By Luke O'Brien

FORTUNE -- A luxury suite at the W Hotel in Dallas is as good a place as any to conquer the world. At least it seemed that way in 2007 when Tobechi Onwuhara got the crew together.

They'd meet there often, seven or eight of them. Some had nicknames from the Ian Fleming lexicon: C, Q, and E. Others were called Mookie, Orji, Uche. They would spread out on designer sofas and at the wet bar, open three-ring binders, and fire up laptops with hard-to-trace wireless cards. On a nearby table there'd be prepaid cellphones with area codes taped to them. A phone for Southern California. A phone for Northern Virginia. A phone for any place Onwuhara had found the "good money."

In those days, the good money wasn't hard to find. The housing boom had flooded the country with capital. Lenders were making promiscuous loans to unsophisticated borrowers. It was an ideal environment for Onwuhara, 27, a brilliant, pug-faced visionary who favored True Religion jeans and Ed Hardy shirts. Looking out over the neon skyline of downtown Dallas, it was easy for the crew to believe his assurances: He'd make them rich. When the sun glinted off one of his $100,000 diamond-encrusted Audemars Piguet watches, who could doubt it? Every few months he would buy a new Maserati or Bentley. He owned expensive properties in Miami, Dallas, and Phoenix. He even had a secret love condo in the W, where scantily clad women visited in such numbers that one bellhop became convinced that the first-generation Nigerian-American was a porn director.
 
The truth was very different. In his ancestral homeland, Onwuhara might have been a chief. In America he became one of the world's most successful cyberscammers, a criminal genius who used his talents to filet a poorly regulated banking and credit system. In less than three years Onwuhara stole a confirmed $44 million, according to the FBI, which believes the total may be anywhere from $80 million to $100 million. All he needed was an Internet connection and a cellphone.

Onwuhara called it "washing." He'd set up a boiler room in a fancy hotel (the Waldorf-Astoria was another favorite) to wash information on wealthy victims. Then he'd wash bank accounts. One group in his crew would do online research using databases and websites to harvest names, dates of birth, and mortgage information. They'd build profiles of victims for a second group, who would call banks posing as account holders. The callers cadged security information and passwords. Then Onwuhara would breach the accounts and wire funds from them to a network of money mules he had established in Asia. The money would be laundered and wired back to his accounts in the U.S.

"I call it modern-day bank robbery," says FBI special agent Michael Nail. "You can sit at home in your PJs and slippers with a laptop, and you can actually rob a bank."

Onwuhara specialized in hitting home equity lines of credit (HELOCs), the reservoirs of cash that banks make available to homeowners. Once Onwuhara gained access to a HELOC, he could siphon out vast sums in seconds. His weapon was persuasion. It got him enough money to start building a colonnaded fortress in Nigeria; enough to gamble at the high-stakes tables in Vegas casinos all night. Even his accomplices appear not to have known how much he was really pulling down -- not even his beautiful fiancée, Precious Matthews.

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richard you be mumu..tobe is just doing half of what your leader

tobe is just doing half of what your leaders here do..praise him for his intelligence oyinbo has extorted us previously in the days of the colony by raping our woman collecting useless tax and all that so a pay back is not a bad idea

U SOUND LIKE A STUPID

U SOUND LIKE A STUPID ILLITERATE. EVEN IF U HAVEN'T BEEN TO THE WESTERN WORLD B4, U THINK EVERY COUNTRY'S LIKE NIGERIA? SM1 HAS MANIPULATED D SYSTEM OUT OF $44M AND U THINK HE'S WORKING 4 THE FEDS? HW NAIVE R U? EVEN IF HE'S GON AV A CHANCE OF WORKING WITH THE AUTHORITIES, NOT B4 SERVING PUNISHMENT FOR HIS CRIME.

Ass Hole AU citizen

U are a bastard for saying america has so many oppportunities n also a bastard for saying he should be executed. The guy has done his home work n it payed off. he dont give no fuck about wat u call him.If the yankee govt can catch him,fine. But not with my help. All the directors of lehman brothers n goldman sachs went home with millions of dollar n none went to jail..and some reelected as members of executive in Mr obamas cabinet. while people lost their savings. No one called that a scam. Tobe is a scam now cos he scamed this same people. If u must know...this banks pay the customers their money cos its insured. so they were the one beings scamed n not individuals. Give urself brain abeg.

kudos

Am a yoruba man..but would say TOBECHI,U TOO MUCH! 7 GUNSHOT FOR U.There is nothing he has done that them americans havent done. Only an american gets more money for selling his story to hollywood. Tobechi plz if u read this i want to discuss buying the rights to ur story n lets sell it to them americans for more money. I throw way for u sir!

You should really fix things yourself

Nigerians you guys are messy u couldn't even be straight forward i bet u guys doesn't know what is wrong or right to u even if G-d will be the Nigerian President u will be seeing peeps complaining especially those Ibgo they question and complain everything... I bet Yaruba and Peul are more honest than you guys... the mess is all yours... IBB is son of the bi#tch so as OBasenjo... Abucha Johnathan that is what u go round saying... beelieve they all our son of the bixtch...

There no such things as Igbo jews

The only peeps are said to be Jewish in africa are numbered lamba tribe, Ethiopians falasha jewish, Ashanti and peul peleg in the bible fulani tribe... u should stop claiming that which u r not u need a saperate country go ahead but connection with Yisrael there is none I am sorry dude Abshalom

Tobechi Onwuhara

Has he been Caught?

We need to put the blame where it belongs

In as much as i condemn this young nigerian american of his irreprehensible act but i will pass the blame solely on america and the rest of the western world hoarding nigerian wealth in their banks without the collective agreement of the nigerian people. Our leaders rob their own people and siphon funds meant for the upkeep of their citizens to the western countries and their banks in turn look the other way with no  questions asked knowing fully well that, it is an ill gotten money. they are only looking at the profit they will be making when they will use the funds  to lend back to the country of origin in the future thereby impoverishing their citizens the more. I call this heartlessness at it's best or blood money. I have lived in north america for the past 25 years to witness all the atrocities abound. I have worked in the banking sector, worked as a financial advisor, stockbroker, accountant and i can say that i have seen it all so please i dont want anybody to be like me that used to curse these yahoo boys in the past  but try to reason with some of them, that are angry at the system that has failed them and understand that if they have not been independent hustling on their own then, society would have had to pay for it in terms of higher level of crime. Please let us start from today to press the western world to return all the loot in their financial institution and make it a big criminal offence for any african leader/politician to open an account or buy a property in their country and scrutinize those who are going to break the laws of your land and their people and realize that  poverty is a sin anywhere in the world, Remember a thief is the same anywhere in the world whether you make yourself a victim or a villain.Nigeria must get it right someday.

NO ONE IS A SAINT

if Nigerians are fraudsters,we sure have a master.my brothers what do you think???

How dare you support evil?

How dare you support evil? Why can't he use his ingenuity to do something good (since stealing is good act in your eyes). People now see why our country will never progress in a good way.

kudos tobechi

I say the dude is a genius. He is just smart. They should pick his brain instead of prosecuting him afterall they were foolish enough to fall for what he planned.
And for all y'all condemning him, if you could, I'm sure you would have done the same.
People have done worst things including the Americans themselves. Cut the dude some slack. Will you? He's better than a million and one people, to say the least.
His only crime is that he was caught!

Tobechi is Not in Hiding...!!

It's amazing how a brilliant promising fella could turn in the way of criminality, nonetheless; i believe Tobechi is not in hiding from the authority, i'd say he's already working with FBI to help unravel other similar rackets like his own. The whole story about him being a wanted person is just to appease the public and give them the confidence that he's been hunted, Where can he hide in United States of America?

"The FBI claims to have no clue where he is. One accomplice swears he's still in America. Maybe he's floating between worlds in cyberspace, probing for new cracks in new systems," Lol "The boy is an enigma," says one of his sisters. "What can I tell you?"

Has any of you guys try to disect all these quotations...?

Trust me, Americans recognise a genius when they see one, imagine locking Tobechi up, then while in prison he goes on and breed a whole new sets of 419crews, when those with lesser convictions comes out, they then carry on his rackets or alternatively FBI gives him a new identity and a bit of Psychoterapy and let him work for them in the special Cyberscam unit, !

I'd guess the authority will chose the latter, , He's a Smart A$$, !!!

All u fuc$$s shld sort ur own future and leave Tobe & FBI alone.

It is reparation time for the greedy Oyinbo thieves

This young man is only taking back what his fore uncle and aunties worked for in the sugar plantations of this Oyinbo people, All the years of slavery,colonialism,and now economic enslavement is worth taking reparations from these Oyinbo people, after all the Germans paid reparations to the Jew for their actions in the holocaust, why not Africa for the impoverishment,slavery, and the present day economic enslavement by firms from their land like SPDC, ELF, CHEVRON, ENI, MOBIL, WILBROS, TRANSOCEAN, TOTAL and a host of them trying to keep us down permanently economically, the problem with this Oyinbo people is that once you know what they know and you perfect it more than them they would call you criminal or phrase a name for your act. Agreed that this man has done something that is called a white collar crime when he is black so they want crucify him, These are crimes that are originated by the Oyinbo people that is their problem. These Oyinbo people have succeeded in cowing our people to forgetting the evil that they have meted on us and are still doing to us till date. They can never repay no matter how we manage to take it from them. They are worst than us, it is just that they don't believe that a Nigerian cum Blackman can be this smart so they call him cyber criminal,where as the cyber is their product how can we be the criminals. Drugs, Prostitution, guns, bombs, nuclear weapons, even impoverishment are their products and all these things are alien to Africans and indeed Nigerians until these Oyinbo people invaded our privacy with their culture and traditions thereby killing our communal life style of service to one another without paying any prominence or value to wealth gathering and its related vices, We Nigerians are quick to condemning our own, we should try to hear from the two sides of story before we pass judgement because these Oyinbo people are the biggest liars on earth ever. I am not supporting wrong doing in any way but all am saying is that this Oyinbo people are the Origin of all negative behaviours and they should blame themselves for the rot in the world, their greed and insatiable wants is dragging the world to the brink of destruction, take a look around you and you will find crises everywhere check the origin it's Oyinbo man. Please Nigerians let us respect One another's tribe, religion and beliefs while having faith in our Nation and we shall succeed. There no place like home GOD BLESS NIGERIA.

@DZOID, what a deluded soul,

@DZOID, what a deluded soul, your saint Ribadu is not even a better devil so to speak, someone who will easily give this country away to please his foreign masters. Lets give it to the young man (Tobechi) for his ingenuity, he deserves some respect instead of being villified by some of you idiots. Over 500 Billion dollars looted from Nigerian Treasury stashed away in foreign Lands, Europe and America inclusive. Think about it first before you call for the head of that young man fools.

KUDOS TO YOU.......TOBECHI &

KUDOS TO YOU.......TOBECHI & CREWS MEMBERS..

tb

there is a tobechi in all of us!

GOVERNOR TOBECHI ONWUHARA

With the amount of money this guy has stolen, he can easily run to be Governor of his state, and he will win easily regardless of his political party.

STOP TALKING RUBBISH

@Abbey Niger I'M SURE YOU BE ABOKI OR GBEGIRI MAN !! HOW MUCH DID TOBE STEAL ! COMPARED TO YOUR ILLITRATE ABOKI BROTHERS OR OBJ !!! WE HAIL THE MIGHTY TOBE AND HE SHOULD BE GIVEN A JOB MY THE NIGERIAN GOVERNMENT AS SPECIAL ADVISER ON CYBER WORLD !!! LONG LIVE THE JEWS OF AFRICA !!! LONG LIVE THE UNITED STATES OF BIAFRA

hmmm

o boy chop ya money.... are they not the grand father of fraud that just put the whole global economy into a tail spin.

o boy next time you have those lovely chick in your condo abeg phone me...

Listen to yourself pinhead

Listen to yourself pinhead and stop exhibiting your ignorance on the internet.
The Igboman did not initiate 419, or bad governance or whatever that is wrong with Nigeria. Remember after the civil war, the Igboman was forced to forfeit all the money he had in the bank and in return was given only 20 naira. For those who had properties, it was taken from them unlawfully in the name of abandoned property. How do explain that? People like Ojukwu fought Lagos State Government to regain his fathers houses but most people couldn't recover anything other than 20 naira.
The Igboman started all over again to rebuild himself. Lagos State would not be the commercial center of Nigeria today without the Igboman. Most developed cities across Nigeria today wouldn't have achieved it without the input of the Igboman. Next time when you see an Igbo on the street, call him close and say I am sorry for my foolish comment on Sahara reporters.

Reckless Comment by MOUNT EVEREST

Listen to yourself pinhead and stop exhibiting your ignorance on the internet.
The Igboman did not initiate 419, or bad governance or whatever that is wrong with Nigeria. Remember after the civil war, the Igboman was forced to forfeit all the money he had in the bank and in return was given only 20 naira. For those who had properties, it was taken from them unlawfully in the name of abandoned property. How do explain that? People like Ojukwu fought Lagos State Government to regain his fathers houses but most people couldn't recover anything other than 20 naira.
The Igboman started all over again to rebuild himself. Lagos State would not be the commercial center of Nigeria today without the Igboman. Most developed cities across Nigeria today wouldn't have achieved it without the input of the Igboman. Next time when you see an Igbo on the street, call him close and say I am sorry for my foolish comment on Sahara reporters.

Thank you ABBEY UK

Abbey UK,thank you jare,only if these morons knows what US and UK has done to Nigeria.Those two countries always give comfort to our corrupt leaders.Marh Rich was pardoned by Bill Clinton after stealing over 400mil,the guy is in Isreal today chilling.Most Nigerians are born slaves,anyway what do expect from product of mallams governnace.

he is more american than nigerian

whilst condemning the action of Tobechi, why is it that suddenly nobody seems to acknowledge his american nationality. He was born and grew up there till he was 15years, came to nigeria for 5years before returning to the u.s.a when he was 20years. he is a product of their system, so they should deal with it.
Lets face it if this guy had been a basketballer or
soccerstar, we would have been hearin phrases like "nigerian born american star e.t.c"
Thumbs down to our corrupt leaders and yahoo boys that have made it so easy for the western world to always lay the blame for this kind of issues on our doorstep.

Good Faith,your corrupt father will be track down first.

Good Faith and Igbode,god will punish both of you,i guess you guys are losers.USA,UK,and other western countries are save heavens for your corrupt leaders,who will help track them down.Tobechi will never be caught,may evil befall on anybody that wishes that boy bad.

this pose make me remember

this pose make me remember the famous, alaba cum idumota cum alade rhymes....Nna Yor ! noting do u

Bayo you are the only person with insight here

there is no reporting here or any other news outlet for that matter. if they have the balls report on Chevron, Shell, NNPC etc. only then can i take you seriously. this here is chatting.

easy my brother

maybe you see yourself as "corrupt and criminal-minded" i surely would not let you paint me with that brush. what this gentleman did he did by himself just as bernard madoff, michael milken and people of their ilk. you are letting people define you. nigerians are fond of this. i work with a nigerian stateside that calls nigerians all kinds of names when he is regaling americans about his moral timber. go figure.man is criminal. there is a criminal in every village on this earth. i bet you if there is human life in alpha centuri there will be criminals there too. stop bashing up on nigeria. we are not that blessed.

ologbo enough of your pettiness

if only sahara reporters was even handed in its reporting. greed is a universal element. ologbo so you don't have a crook in your village?

Ribadu who?

enough of this dribbling at the mouth about nuhu ribadu. what was his record against the real robbers. the real scam artists who have rode rough shod over the psyche of nigeria. the story is not the 2 bit hustler. it is the folk who have their hand on the apparatus of state and have steered us into the gully. what was nuhu's record against the babangidas, the obasanjos and the danjumas of the world. please spare me on this nuhu ribadu craze. we are still searching.

the jews of Africa are at it again.

If an Igbo man steals. They dont call it stealing. You never hear them describe their crooks as thieves. If an Igbo robs. No way they dont call the man an armed robber. If an Igbo is hired to assassinate, the dont call himm an assassin. They say its a game. Mugu fall fall guy man whack. Yet the Igbos are the main supporters of Ribadu. From Enugu to Imo River. All the 419ners are behind Ribadu. The question is why. Because Ribadu is also a 419ner. He operated with Andy Uba. He was sent to go after those the rival gangs wanted him to chase to their death-He cannot be our president. Look at the shame they have brought unto Nigeria their adopted country. The jews of Africa. Madoff was a jew. If you see igbo man and you dont run. No you sabi.

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