TRENTON – Two men have pleaded guilty to mortgage and tax fraud in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey Division of Taxation that charged four men with conspiring to steal over $435,000 by filing hundreds of fraudulent state income tax returns, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced. The two other defendants pleaded guilty previously in the case and were already sentenced to state prison.
Adebowale Sheba, 41, of Franklin Township (Somerset County), pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to two counts of second-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Sumners Jr. in Mercer County. Sheba admitted that he used an alias and false employment and earnings information to obtain mortgage loans in the amounts of $278,950 and $235,000 for the purchase of two homes in Newark. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years in state prison. He must pay restitution to the lenders in an amount to be determined by the court.
In addition, Johnson Coker, 52, a.k.a. “Johnny Tunde” and “Adeyemisi Toyusini,” of Old Bridge, pleaded guilty yesterday afternoon to charges of second-degree conspiracy and third-degree receipt of stolen property before Judge Sumners. He admitted his part in a conspiracy to file false state income tax returns using stolen and fictitious identities in order to fraudulently collect refunds. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years in state prison. He must pay $55,206 in restitution to the state. Judge Sumners scheduled sentencing for the two defendants for Sept. 26.
Deputy Attorney General Denise Grugan prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Financial & Computer Crimes Bureau and took the pleas. The two men were charged in a Dec. 23, 2009 state grand jury indictment which also named Taiwo D. Daisi, 41, of Roselle, and Ugochukwu H. Madubuike, 32, of Orange. The indictment charged the four men with conspiring in a scheme to fraudulently obtain at least 585 state tax refund checks totaling $435,577 between February 2005 and February 2008. Madubuike and Daisi previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme and were sentenced to state prison. Madubuike was sentenced on Sept. 22, 2010 to four years in state prison, and Daisi was sentenced on July 28, 2011 to five years in state prison.
All four men previously pleaded guilty to federal charges filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for stealing over $3 million in federal tax refunds by filing thousands of fraudulent U.S. tax returns. Sheba was sentenced on July 25, 2011 to 72 months in federal prison, and Coker was sentenced that day to 70 months in federal prison. Madubuike was sentenced on Aug. 30, 2010 to 41 months in federal prison, and Daisi was sentenced on July 11, 2011 to 37 months in federal prison. The state sentences for all four men will run concurrently with their federal sentences.
The investigation was led by Auditor Thomas R. Bair Jr. of the Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation and Sgt. Robert Walker, Detective Richard A. Loufik and Deputy Attorney General Grugan of the Division of Criminal Justice.
State and federal authorities arrested Coker, Daisi and Sheba on Nov. 18, 2009. Madubuike had been arrested by federal authorities in November 2008. All of the men are from Nigeria, with the exception of Madubuike, who was born in the U.S. Daisi is a naturalized U.S. citizen. Coker and Sheba are not U.S. citizens.
The fraudulent state refund checks were mailed to 27 addresses controlled by the defendants. The checks were cashed against, or deposited into, various bank accounts which they maintained or to which they had access. Daisi operated a business called Chrysolyte Universal and Tax Services Professional from his apartment and used its bank account to deposit some of the checks. Tax returns were filed using stolen identities, including stolen Social Security numbers. Other identities were fictitious. Some Social Security numbers were invalid or did not match the names under which the returns were filed. Several Social Security numbers were from deceased people.
The investigation began when auditors from the Division of Taxation Office of Criminal Investigation detected numerous refund checks payable to multiple taxpayers that were co-endorsed with the same name. The tax returns associated with the refund checks had similar taxpayer information, including filing status as head of household, one or two dependent children, wages ranging from $7,000 to $16,500 with no payroll tax withholdings, and business losses reported on an accompanying Schedule C. Wages were reported on identical W-2s, apparently produced from the same software package. In all instances, the taxpayers completed the Earned Income Tax Credit Schedule with income levels that qualified for the EITC.
Division of Taxation auditors expanded the scope of their review, identifying and investigating checks that were co-endorsed with different names but fit the suspicious pattern. They referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice.