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Cobb man tricked school districts into giving up employee tax info

A Smyrna man has pleaded guilty to duping school districts across the country into sending him the personal information of thousands of workers.

Olukayode Ibrahim Lawal, 36, signed a plea agreement on Dec. 20 in a federal Connecticut court for a wire fraud charge, document show. He must pay back $23,543 to the Internal Revenue Service.

Federal prosecutors said an FBI cybercrime squad in New Haven and the IRS found that Lawal used phishing emails sent to various school districts in 2017 to get the personal information and file fraudulent tax returns in their names. He was indicted in May.


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Lawal, from Nigeria, was in the U.S. on an expired visa. He came to America on Thanksgiving Day 2016 on a visitor’s visa, but he didn’t leave a week later as required. He sent the emails a couple of months later, according to an arrest affidavit written by an FBI cybercrime investigator.

The agent wrote that Lawal sent an email to a coastal Connecticut public school district employee masquerading as the school system’s superintendent. The email address was “superintendent.schools@aol.com.”

The message asked for a PDF of the W-2 forms and tax statements for all employees, and the worker sent along information for the 1,300 school district employees.

It didn’t take long to figure out something had gone awry.


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The next day, about 100 “suspicious” 1040 forms were filed in the names of the school’s employees, including some who were owed refunds, the feds said. Three of the bunk refunds were processed, and $23,543 was dispensed from the IRS. The rest weren’t processed because of how fishy they seemed.

The personal info — names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and adjusted gross incomes — of at least 10 employees were passed around between Lawal and a co-conspirator, according to prosecutors. Some of those employees dealt with issues of identity theft, authorities have said.


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The investigation by Connecticut prosecutors also showed that Lawal ran a similar scam on a hospital in which 33 victims had fraudulent tax returns filed, unsuccessfully claiming $314,184 in refunds.

Authorities have said Lawal also targeted school districts in Texas and Oklahoma, along with at least 11 businesses.

Lawal’s wire fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

His sentencing is scheduled for March 14, 2019.


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