The Street Journal has learnt that Nigerian Businessman, Obinwanne Okeke, a.k.a Invictus Obi who was arrested in the US in August 2019 on a two-count charge of wire and computer fraud has agreed to plead guilty to the charges after he had vehemently denied the allegations.
This new development to enter a guilty plea could an attempt to attract a lighter sentence.
Recall that Mr Okeke was arrested by the FBI on August 6, 2019, in Alexandria, Virginia just as he was headed for Nigeria. The U.S. authorities allege that Mr Okeke defrauded the United Kingdom office of Unatrac of up to $11 million in business email fraud.
Unatrac’s headquarters is in the United Arab Emirates, however, the company filed complaints with the FBI through Caterpillar.
Both charges of computer and wire fraud carry a maximum jail sentence of 10 and 20 years respectively.
A report by Premium Times has revealed that a Senior United State District Judge, Rebecca Smith, has already given an order approving the plea bargain arrangement.
“The Court has been advised that the defendant wishes to enter a plea of guilty,” Judge Smith said in her Order of April 24. “A United States Magistrate Judge is hereby authorised, with the consent of the defendant, to conduct the proceedings required by the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 11 incident to the making of the plea. See 28 U.S.C. Section (b) (1); United States v. Dees, 125 F.3d 261 (5th Cir.1997).
“The defendant may consent to the United States Magistrate Judge conducting the proceedings on a form provided by the clerk.
“If, after conducting such proceedings, the Magistrate Judge accepts the plea of guilty and the associated plea agreement, a presentence investigation shall be conducted and a report shall be prepared pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32, and a sentencing data shall be scheduled.
“If the plea of guilty is accepted, the District Judge will adjudicate guilt and will determine and impose a sentence.”
Robert Krask, a Magistrate Judge has been appointed to conduct the plea agreement hearing set for June 18 at the Norfolk Magistrate Courtroom 1.
Mr Okeke had earlier filed two preliminary objections. In one of the filings, he said the American authorities lacked jurisdiction to charge him for fraud, stating that he did not commit the offence on American soil and that at the time of his indictment, no American company or individual was swindled.
Mr Okeke in the second objection accused the Federal Bureau of Investigation of obtaining evidence from him and his iPhone under duress, adding that the information extracted should be disregarded by the court.
In response to the objection, the prosecutors said Mr Okeke travelled to the U.S. in the course of the crime and that his lawyers were wrong to argue that no American companies or individuals were defrauded by the suspect.
According to the FBI, due process was followed in obtaining evidence from Mr Okeke.
As both parties agreed to proceed with the trial, Mr. Okeke told the prosecutors he was ready to plead guilty and the court was informed about the development.
The Street Journal also reports that Mr. Okeke was once celebrated by Forbes Africa as one of the’ under 30 billionaires in Africa’.